Real Madrid are aiming to win their 14th Champions League title. / EFE

Some distraction required

Mbappé's situation has relieved the pressure on Madrid before the Champions League final

Rob Palmer
ROB PALMER

If Carlo Ancelotti needed a smokescreen to distract the attention from his players in the week leading up to the Champions League final, he couldn't have asked for one denser than a conclusion to the Kylian Mbappé drama.

We now know that Real Madrid's two-year pursuit of the French superstar was all in vain as he decided to stay in Paris. The Spanish giants and La Liga's marketing department are not minding their French.

His signing would have been sensational. To commentate on one of the world's greatest talents would have been a weekly honour. He's special, a true galáctico.

In time, I'm sure he's destined for the Bernabéu after the three-year, €1 million per-week deal at PSG. The responsibility of appointing coaches, and sporting directors, and approving all the major decisions will eventually weigh him down.

Understandably, his national teammate Karim Benzema shrugged his shoulders and said "This is not the moment to talk about these little things" when quizzed in the build-up to the final against Liverpool.

Most would expect Benzema to be upset that his compatriot won't be joining him, but it's the opposite. Benzema has taken his game to another level since he was freed from being Cristiano Ronaldo's legs man. He's the most influential player in a team which has no stars or egos.

If Mbappé had joined, life would have been a circus. The key to Real's success has been the total teamwork and togetherness.

Imagine this was decades ago: Mbappé signed and was available for the final this weekend. Would he have walked into the team? I'd argue that adjustments need to be made as he took centre stage and others moved to the wings - quite literally.

Real Madrid created a war chest over the past couple of years and it's certain that they will invest in the summer. I'd expect Raheem Sterling and Mohamed Salah to be on the radar. Neither are making noises about staying with their Premier League clubs for the long-term. Both would fit into the attacking trident alongside Benzema and Vinicius.

Of course, Salah is expected to lead the Liverpool frontline in Paris. He's been used sparingly in recent weeks: he's managed 90 minutes just once in Liverpool's last five league games.

The Merseysiders are the bookies' favourites. This would be understandable if all things were equal; however, they've been scrapping until the final seconds of their domestic season. Like Salah, Virgil van Dijk appears to be feeling the fatigue of an arduous season. The Dutchman missed the last two league games.

In contrast, Real Madrid used the last four fixtures as sparring bouts in preparation. La Liga was already won, but their opponents still had something riding on the matches. It allowed Ancelotti to tinker with his team and manage the minutes. The preparation couldn't have been better.

He will also have secretly welcomed all the attention focussing on the signing that didn't come to fruition.