Putting the pieces together: How Mbappé will fit in at Real Madrid

Seven-year saga set to end this summer with the Frenchman joining Real Madrid on a free transfer
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Fifteen years ago, on a sultry July afternoon in Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo was presented as a Real Madrid player for the very first time. More than 80,000 singing fans at the Santiago Bernabéu greeted him with open arms. There hasn't been a signing as big or as prolific for Real Madrid since. Until now.

Just last week, Kylian Mbappé officially announced, through a video posted on his social media, that he will be leaving Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) this summer after seven years. While the French international’s impending departure has been common knowledge for quite some time now, this is the first official confirmation from the player himself.

Though he did not address it publicly, it is all but certain that Mbappé will be a Real Madrid player next season. The Spanish giants famously tried to secure his signature in the past, most notably in 2022, when a deal fell through at the last-minute as Mbappé opted to extend with PSG for an additional two years. It was not to be then, but it is now. At the time, the move broke the hearts of fans across the world, but there is once again a palpable excitement in Madrid as they prepare for the newest Galáctico to arrive.

Unlike in 2022, though, this is a much stronger Real Madrid side. One that is not still reeling from the post-Ronaldo hangover and one that has found its footing with a very tightly-knit squad. This is a side that has just been crowned La Liga champions and will soon be playing the Champions League final, their second in three years. The development of key players like Vinícius Junior, Rodrygo and Fede Valverde, along with the addition of Jude Bellingham make this an already formidable side that isn’t crying out for Mbappé the way they once were.

This begs the question: How exactly will all these pieces fit together? It is a problem of plenty, one that Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti is very familiar with. He’s not without his flaws, but the Italian is perhaps the most perfect man to answer this question.

There is potential to overcomplicate Mbappé’s inclusion into Real Madrid’s starting XI, given that Vini Jr currently occupies the Frenchman’s preferred left wing spot. But the reality is that Mbappé will slot into Real Madrid’s frontline quite seamlessly.

Working under the assumption that Ancelotti retains the 4-4-2 shape that he has employed this season to accommodate Bellingham at the top of a midfield diamond, Mbappé would line up alongside Vini Jr in a front two. While the PSG forward already possesses the skills to play in a center forward role, Ancelotti has spent this season helping Vini Jr develop from an out-and-out winger into a more versatile forward who is also capable of playing centrally.

As with any Ancelotti system, though, there will be a huge amount of fluidity and freedom given to the players. He builds the system around the strengths of incredible players and trusts them to do incredible things. Looking at the versatility of Real Madrid’s squad and the all-round attacking abilities of Mbappé, there are other systems that Ancelotti is likely to test out, including a potential 4-3-3 that could see Rodrygo join the attack on the right with Vini Jr on the left and Mbappé down the middle.

Of course, this is just the tactical fit. There is also the question of the dressing room impact. This Real Madrid side has developed the moniker “Friendship FC” among its fans and rightfully so. With shades and cigars complimenting the dancing and vibes, there is a real sense of collective camaraderie to this team. How Mbappé fits into that is yet to be seen, though with perhaps the best man-manager in world football at the helm, it likely won’t be much of an issue.

This is also a Madrid squad that is no stranger to sacrifice, nor to compromise either. There are countless instances from this season alone of players playing out of position for the good of the team. Aurélien Tchouaméni as a center back, Eduardo Camavinga as a left back, Valverde as a defensive midfielder, Rodrygo as a right winger and even Vini Jr as a striker all come to mind. With a culture like that and a manager like Ancelotti, Mbappé may have his share of problems over the next few months, but fitting in at Real Madrid isn’t going to be one of them.


And so there it is. After years of anticipation, the Bernabéu faithful will finally have the chance to relish the moment. To receive their long-awaited signing, the one they have pined for innumerable times over the years. The fans will not soon forget the heartbreak of 2022, but just as they did 15 years ago, they will flood the Bernabéu stands to watch and sing as one of the best players in the world graces their pitch. For the first time, and after much too long, he will finally be theirs.