PARIS (AFP) - Paris Saint-Germain have rejected a €160 million (S$250 million) offer from Real Madrid for Kylian Mbappe, but the French club's sporting director Leonardo on Wednesday (Aug 25) admitted that they will not be able to keep the World Cup winner "if he wants to leave".
"Our position has always been the same, to keep Kylian and extend his contract," Leonardo told several media including AFP as he discussed the future of Mbappe, whose current contract expires at the end of this season.
It emerged on Tuesday that Real had made a bid for Mbappe, a player they have courted ever since he was a young boy, was invited with his parents to take in a game at the Santiago Bernabeu and was taken to meet Zinedine Zidane at their training ground.
The offer has been knocked back by PSG, who say it is "not enough" for someone who arrived from Monaco in 2017 in a €180 million deal.
Real, though, are laying the ground to bring in Mbappe now, even though he will be able to sign as a free agent next summer if he does not extend his contract in Paris.
"If a player wants to leave, he will leave. The club, the project is bigger than any one person," said Leonardo, the Brazilian, as he slammed the Spanish giants for being "disrespectful" in their approach of the 22-year-old.
"It is a strategy, to get a no from us so they can say they tried everything.
"They have been behaving like this for two years. It's disrespectful, inappropriate, illegal, and for us it is unacceptable."
The offer comes with just six days to go before the summer transfer window in Europe closes on Aug 31 and with PSG desperate to keep hold of a player they still consider their crown jewel despite the presence of Neymar and, now, of Lionel Messi in the French capital.
The uncertainty over Mbappe's future has gone on for months, and at the end of last season the striker hinted he would only commit his future to his hometown team if they showed sufficient ambition in the transfer market.
Improved bid to come?
PSG finished second in Ligue 1 last season to Lille and lost to Manchester City in the semi-finals of the Champions League, the trophy they covet more than anything.
They responded by going out and signing some of the world's biggest and most exciting names, with Sergio Ramos, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Georginio Wijnaldum and Achraf Hakimi all arriving before the sensational recruitment of Messi.
With Neymar and Messi yet to play this season, Mbappe has played a central role as PSG have won their opening three Ligue 1 games. He netted his first goal of the campaign last weekend against Brest.
"We have done everything for Kylian, even this transfer window has been built around him," insisted Leonardo.
However, he admitted it "seems clear" that Mbappe - who was born and brought up in the Paris suburbs - wants to go and said the player had "always promised that he would not go for free".
Those comments suggest Mbappe is therefore likely to leave this month, at least as long as Real come back with an improved offer.
In contrast to their great rivals Barcelona, who could not keep Messi due to their debt problems, Madrid's financial situation is strong.
According to their latest accounts published in July, the 13-time European champions boast net assets of €534 million and had €122 million cash in the bank.
Their total wage bill for last season was €448 million, slightly below the limit of €473.3 million set by La Liga.
Since then they have got Ramos' enormous salary off the wage bill and sold Raphael Varane, another high earner, to Manchester United for a reported €40 million, while raising a similar amount from the sale of Martin Odegaard to Arsenal.
"Real Madrid could sign Mbappe," said La Liga president Javier Tebas in June, adding the arrival of the Frenchman "would be very good" for the Spanish game.