Every summer provides us with new transfer storylines in the world of football, but it seems like in recent years, the same one keeps popping up. That would be the situation of Kylian Mbappé, the prodigious youngster who accomplished things not seen since the tenure of Pelé, and has long seemed destined to follow in the footsteps of so many legends before him and make a move to Real Madrid. However, several transfer windows have come and gone, as have countless Mbappé rumors, but that move still hasn’t come.

This summer it seems that things may have finally come to a head: Mbappé won’t sign a long-term deal, while PSG won’t let him leave for free at the end of his contract which would be a year from now. To add to the time pressure, he’s owed a major “loyalty bonus” if he’s on the Paris roster at the beginning of August. It’s seemed like a deal was inevitable at times in the past, but with the two sides at an impasse like they are right now, this could actually be it. Let’s talk about a few ways this could play out.

Option 1: Mbappé to Madrid

In a lot of ways, this is the most straightforward option and would most resemble a “normal” transfer. There’s a lot of mutual interest between the player and the buying club, so much to the extent that PSG believes that there is already a verbal agreement in place for personal terms. Madrid is as well off financially as any club in Europe, save for a few, so in a normal transfer landscape they would probably be the best suitor from PSG’s perspective as well.

It really is a match made in heaven; the best player in the world, the biggest club in sports, and an opportunity for Mbappé to continue growing his legacy with Champions Leagues and Ballons D’Ors. He’s sort of stagnating at PSG, and this move would change everything in that regard. He’d also have some familiar faces around with young France Midfielders Aurélien Tchouaméni and Eduardo Camavinga on the squad, and while he’s left the club, I’m sure Karim Benzema would be a valued mentor.

But would the club do it? They still have European aspirations, and creating the Mbappé/Madrid pairing could be fatal for most clubs in that regard. It’s also the rare situation where Madrid can get significantly outbid, bringing us to the next potential outcome…

Option 2: Mbappé to the Saudi League

If there’s anyone who can outbid Real Madrid, or really anyone in Europe, it’s the entire Saudi government. They’ve driven the price up incredibly high, with a transfer fee of $332 million offered to PSG, which would be a record by a long shot. Madrid would theoretically have to match that price or at least come close, a steep price to pay for a player they can probably grab on a free transfer in just a year.

It also depends on just how much money means to Mbappé himself. In addition to the enormous transfer fee sent to Paris, the player himself would receive a staggering $766 million as his wage for one season at Al-Hilal, a completely unprecedented number. Of course, he would no longer be competing alongside the best teams in the world, and would essentially waste one of his prime years from a legacy standpoint. Although it’s safe to say that he has some unfinished business on the Arabian Peninsula (see image above).

With the move to Madrid clearly a dream of his, but the financials of a move to the Middle East so mind-boggling, it’s fascinating to imagine what matters most to the young superstar. We may never get a definitive answer, but the fact that this deal hasn’t happened yet when it’s such a positive for the club probably means that the player himself is hesitant, and has not agreed to personal terms.

Option 3: Mbappé to the English Premier League

The Premier League doesn’t quite have the financial means of the Saudi League, but the English league definitely has the most spending power in Europe right now. Still, most major clubs (it’s hard to know the limits for Newcastle and Manchester City) would need to get a bit creative to get this done and lessen the blow in terms of pure dollars and cents.

One way to do this would be a loan deal, an approach in which Tottenham Hotspur has shown some interest. This would give PSG some sort of payday, without forcing Spurs to fork over their entire cash reserves. That being said, Mbappé reportedly has absolutely no interest in a move to North London, which is pretty understandable in terms of both financials and football.

Another way a Premier League club could bring in Mbappé would be by including a player swap alongside cash considerations. Liverpool and Arsenal come to mind for this approach, as both are owned by Americans and have a decent amount of money, but lots of intriguing talent as well. They’ve also been linked with Mbappé in the past, with varying degrees of legitimacy, and it would be a new challenge for the Frenchman with an extremely high ceiling in terms of potential accomplishment. I could see Liverpool shipping over Mo Salah or even Virgil van Dijk plus cash, or if it’s Arsenal, perhaps Gabriel Jesus.

Option 4: Mbappé Stays

This one seems like such a long shot, a Paris pipe dream, and certainly anticlimactic, yet in a lot of ways this is the simplest way this could end. If PSG is unable to get a deal done with Madrid or someone in England, and Mbappé himself refuses to sign with Al-Hilal, there isn’t much else of a choice. They won’t want to miss out on both the money and a year of his services, and he won’t want to miss a whole year of football- he’d also secure that loyalty bonus in this scenario.

It seems impossible, but it’s seemed that way before and the two sides have stuck together thus far. And who knows, maybe with Lionel Messi out, this is the year they finally have that European breakthrough. This might be the least interesting option and I’m surely not rooting for it, but we’ll have to wait and see how it all plays out in the coming weeks.