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The day Mbappé visited Real Madrid to meet his idol Cristiano Ronaldo

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Finally, Kylian Mbappé is a Real Madrid player. The lengthy pursuit, that began before the Frenchman had even made his senior debut, ends as it always looked like it would.

Mbappé has accepted the offer of Real Madrid president Florentino Perez and will join Los Blancos after his PSG deal expires on June 30. Real Madrid have suffered numerous setbacks in their pursuit of Mbappé, often hailed as the finest player of his generation. There were early attempts to take him from Monaco in 2017. Four years later PSG rebuffed a $194 million bid from Madrid. Finally in 2022, when Mbappé was out of contract, he opted against a Madrid move and decided to renew with the Parisian side.

However even that first official transfer bid in 2017 is far from the start of the Mbappé-Madrid saga. For that, you have to go back to December 2012 when a prodigious young Frenchman rocked up in the Spanish capital.

Mbappé's meeting with Real Madrid legends

The young star was still a child, aged just 14, when Madrid first made overtures. Towards the end of 2012 Mbappé was invited by Real Madrid to visit their training center at Valdebebas. The offer came at the insistence of Madrid legend Zinedine Zidane, who realised his compatriot’s incredible potential.

While there he was driven to the training ground by Zidane and took part in training sessions with the youth team. He even got to meet his sporting hero, Cristiano Ronaldo. That show of interest was ultimately unsuccessful and Zidane admitted years later: “He was almost signed by Madrid, but he went to Monaco. We know he was very good at his age”.

The Madrid trip gave Kylian Mbappé the chance to meet boyhood hero Cristiano Ronaldo.
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The Madrid trip gave Kylian Mbappé the chance to meet boyhood hero Cristiano Ronaldo.

Madrid were eager to sign the teenaged Mbappé but both the player and his family decided that remaining in France was their best option. They agreed that the 14-year-old was best-served by remaining in his country and he signed for Ligue 1 side Monaco soon after. Mbappé, however, has made clear that his meeting with Zinedine Zidane was a formative moment in his young career.

“I was then a child who saw the best player in the History of France talking to him. It was touching, sincere for me. It was a great moment, but it didn’t materialize. I wanted to give priority to staying in my country. I stayed at Monaco,” Mbappé explained years later. “Madrid have been trying to sign me since I was 14 years old.”

What did Kylian Mbappé do on his trip to Real Madrid?

Earlier this year Mbappé appeared on French documentary series Envoyé Spécial and recalled the details of the 2012 trip. It was, understandably, a world away from the modest upbringing he had in the Parisian suburbs.

He explained: “I was invited by Real Madrid. I spent four days at the Valdebebas facilities, my head was going so fast. I saw all the superstars and the whole coaching staff. And after that I had to go back and do three days of cleaning [classrooms with my mother]. I went from top to bottom. I had to come back down to earth. At the time I thought, what were you thinking bringing me back to France?”

“When you are young, you don’t understand. But now, looking back, I would have done the same thing.”

His visit to Valdebebas is one of his best memories as a child and the episode even features in a comic book released by Mbappé in 2021, detailing his early life and career in soccer. Mbappé tells how nervous he was the day before Travelling to Madrid; his meeting with Ronaldo and Zidane; and even his response when his father asked if he’d enjoyed the trip: “I’ve had the best weekend of my life.”

Despite his dream of playing for Madrid, Mbappé feels deeply rooted to his homeland and it has taken longer than most would have expected for him to arrive at the Santiago Bernabeu. But more than a decade on from the first contact between Mbappé and Madrid, the Spanish giants have finally got their man.

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