One banner at the presenation of Real Madrid’s latest signing Mariano carried the sarcastic message: ‘Neymar or Mbappe?’
The message from the Bernabeu from around 5,000 supporters greeting the arrival of Mariano from Lyon was clear – we thought we were signing one of Paris Saint Germain’s stars.
Madrid fans now believe operation ‘Neymar or Mbappe’ will happen next summer. Luka Modric currently wears the number 10 shirt but he is only keeping it warm for the club’s next transfer record breaking move.
Sportsmail looks at which player the club will go for and wonders if they might even try to sign both.
Real Madrid’s plan all along has been to sign Neymar. Florentino Perez sees him as the only footballer on the planet who can fill Cristiano Ronaldo’s commercial shoes.
He has the glitz and the glamour of the dearly departed now Juventus striker and for all that Real Madrid supporters scream that Kylian Mbappe is the better player Perez is sticking to his guns.
He also sees Neymar as easier to get out of the club. Mbappe’s sensational World Cup softened Paris Saint Germain’s stance over letting Neymar leave.
Nasser Al-Khelaifi said this summer that Neymar would be 2000 per cent staying at PSG but if the French club have to choose between their two marquee signings they will build their future around the local boy and World Cup hero and not the unsettled Brazilian.
There is also the small matter of the 222m release clause rumoured to be in Neymar’s contract that would allow him to leave at the end of the second season for exactly what PSG paid for him.
And to those who believe Mbappe is the better buy in pure football terms president Perez might refer them to comments made by Diego Simeone this week.
Asked which player he would rather have he said: ‘Neymar because he applies himself to one position whereas Mbappe is more individualistic.’
There is no doubt that Mbappe would be the bigger hit with the supporters.
Neymar’s Barcelona past, his on the pitch histrionics and his tendency to become a bigger story than the club he is at, have always left Real Madrid supporters with doubts over the benefits of his signing.
And when, this summer, they watched Mbappe destroy Argentina in the last-16 in Russia and go on to score in the final as France lifted the trophy this only increased their desire to see the teenager at the Bernabeu instead of Neymar.
An online poll organized by Diario AS at the time had over 180,000 responses and a staggering 89 per cent said they wanted the club to sign Mbappe instead of Neymar. Public opinion has not changed since.
What also has not changed is that Mbappe is developing at such a speed that it will take a serious change of course to stop him becoming the best player in the world very soon.
He is six years younger than Neymar and already developing the sort of personality that will make him the serial winner Ronaldo was. Outside of the confines of Barcelona Neymar has struggled to actually win the really big prizes.
Mbappe might not have the marketing pull that Neymar has quite yet but Adidas – one of Real Madrid’s biggest commercial partners and their kit suppliers – would be every bit as excited by the signing of the World Cup winner who up until now has worn the Nike swoosh and not the three stripes.
When clubs talk about shirt sales paying the transfer fees of top players this is what they mean. Adidas would be prepared to up their financial commitment to Madrid considerable if Mbappe started running around in their colours every week. The same is true of Neymar. Which brings us the 450m euros question:
Could Madrid sign both?
No, would be the short answer.
Real Madrid president Perez wants the club to ask for a bank credit of around 500m euros to help pay for the re-modelling of the stadium. He will put the proposal – a long term loan repayable over 35 years – to the members this month.
The club had hoped the stadium would be part paid for by a naming sponsor but finding one has been more difficult than anticipated. That bank credit – if it is obtained will help the club rebuild their ground and still compete in the transfer market.
But it underlines their financial situation and means it is impossible that they would by both of PSG’s stars.