Graham Hunter takes us inside the Neymar and Mbappe situations

One player is heavily linked with PSG and the other appears to be closing in on Real Madrid

BY Raf Diallo 21:05 Tuesday 25 July 2017, 21:05 25 Jul 2017

East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA - EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey - Saturday, July 22, 2017: Barcelona FC takes on Juventus in the Guinness International Champions Cup at MetLife Stadium. (Credit Image: � Mike Lawrence/ISIPhotos via ZUMA Wire)

There has been a growing buzz around AS Monaco starlet Kylian Mbappe over the past 18 months, especially after some sparkling performances in Ligue 1 and the Champions League.

But there is another buzz of noise around the 18 year old France forward and that's in regard to a growing likelihood that he will leave for Real Madrid soon in an eye-watering world record transfer.

Reportedly, a €180 million fee has been agreed to take the player to the Santiago Bernabeu where he would be coached by his compatriot Zinedine Zidane.

Off The Ball's European football correspondent Graham Hunter joined us to discuss the impending deal and explained that, in a way, it's a long time in the making.

"I think the promises that Real Madrid have made, the fact as detailed by Mbappe's father that he grew up a Madrid fan. Whether you want to say out and out first team but Madrid was in his mind, Madrid was at the very least his first team outside France," he said.

Kylian Mbappe. Martin Rickett/PA Wire/PA Images

"But a personal hero was Cristiano Ronaldo as Mbappe was growing up. But also he was taken to Valdebebas [Real Madrid training facilities], showed around.

"When you're a 14 year old, impressionable guy and you're shown around Valdebebas and you meet a hero like Cristiano Ronaldo and you're spoken to by Zidane, who was at the time four years ago a mix between an ambassador and informal sort of director of football at the club, these things have made deep imprints. He very nearly joined the club. The offer from Madrid for Mbappe as a 14 year old was firm, it was legitimate under the rulings, he's a European Union citizen as in he could have made the move. He chose not to. He chose to wait and four years later it's almost a repeat situation but with an almost fully formed footballer." 

The other forward linked with a move for an even more expensive fee than the Mbappe one has been Neymar.

There are claims that the Brazilian is unsettled at Barcelona and would like to be a key player around which a team could be built around, hence suggestions that Paris Saint Germain are willing to match his buyout clause.

However, a tweet by Barcelona team-mate Gerard Pique appeared to imply that Neymar would stay at Camp Nou and as part of the forward trident with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

However, any decision would appear to not just be in regards to the player.

"Neymar's father is determined that the grass is greener, that there is a better life, that there is a better profile for his son at another club," Graham explained, adding that Neymar himself is "not tired of playing" in that fearsome forward trio and will not be the spur for any deal.

"In my opinion, this is a Neymar who is not acting like Figo taking charge of the decisions saying 'I'm out here, I don't trust the club, I don't trust the playing development' and therefore Barcelona remain in the fight to keep the player."

Graham also adds that Messi's influence as a friend and team-mate in persuading Neymar to stick around cannot be ruled out either.

You can listen to Graham's thoughts on both Neymar and Mbappe on the podcast player or on iTunes


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