But it holds true elsewhere. It is the root of the sickness that has come to afflict Manchester United, another team playing the role of final landing spot for an idol resisting the dying of the light. The priorities of the Glazer family, the club’s owners, are effectively unrelated to the demands of the fans: performance on the field matters only so much as it affects performance off it. As long as the money keeps rolling, first and fourth in the Premier League look much the same.
It is the problem that has beset Barcelona, where successive presidential regimes have focused not on maintaining the philosophy that made the club the defining team of an era, but on exploiting its brand, and Real Madrid, where the defining rationale behind any decision is the perpetuation of Florentino Pérez’s power. It is the issue that allows a host of teams to be happy to survive in the Premier League, greedily consuming the lucrative installments from the division’s television deals rather than, you know, trying to win something.
That, alone, would not be enough to convince Mbappé to leave. No matter where he plays, he is likely to spend his career at a club where the interests of the owners and the fans markedly diverge. That, sadly, is the reality of modern soccer.
Far more significant, in all likelihood, was the precise content of the ultras’ complaints. Had Mbappé read the statement issued to explain the protests, he would doubtless have agreed with the gist of it. P.S.G. is a fundamentally unserious sporting project. Its team is unbalanced, ill-conceived, undisciplined. Its season does tend to rest on a handful of games, two at the fewest, seven at the most, in the Champions League.
And that leaves him, ultimately, with no choice. To fulfill his talent, Mbappé has to leave. He has already won a World Cup, and a suite of French championships. The sheer mass of money available to P.S.G. means the club will, at some point, inevitably win the Champions League.
But while he might be able to win all of the trophies he desires in Paris, a career spent trying to impose some logic on a squad that possesses none of it would leave Mbappé ignorant to what he might have been, to what he might have become at a club with a clear vision, and playing for a coach, as the ultras put it, who is the final decision maker.
That is not the only consideration. There is a more commercial factor, too. Ligue 1 does not warrant its reputation as a “farmer’s league” — other than in the sense that it is home to the sport’s most fertile crop of talent — but Mbappé needs only to look at Messi for proof of the effect it has on a player’s profile.