Champions League win restores Madrid pride after Mbappé loss

Real Madrid players on an open-top bus during the trophy parade in front of the City Hall in Madrid, Spain, Sunday, May 29, 2022. Real Madrid beat Liverpool 1-0 in the Champions League final in Paris. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
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MADRID (AP) — A Real Madrid fan at the Champions League final held a Paris Saint-Germain shirt with Kylian Mbappé’s name and the number of European titles the France forward has won: Zero.

Back in Spain, Madrid supporters celebrating the club’s 14th European title kept reminding Mbappé that he probably made a mistake by not joining their club. Madrid restored some of its pride after being rejected by Mbappé with a victory over Liverpool on Saturday, securing yet another Champions League title.

A week earlier, the club was mired in disappointment and trying to understand why it was turned down by the young French star who had always said he dreamed about playing for Real Madrid.

“Today Mbappé doesn’t exist,” Madrid club president Florentino Pérez said after the team’s 1-0 victory at the Stade de France. “Today it’s about Real Madrid’s celebrations. What happened with Mbappé is already in the past. It’s forgotten.”

Pérez was loudly criticized after not being able to close the deal with the France forward, who had been free to sign a pre-contract with the club.

Madrid and its fans were certain Mbappé would be joining the club, but he surprisingly announced a week before the Champions League final that he would be staying with PSG. The French club last year had turned down Madrid offers of nearly 200 million euros ($215 million) for the player.

The shocked Madrid supporters didn’t hide their disappointment.

The crowd gathering at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium to watch Saturday’s final on a big screen mixed chants of support for the club with ones attacking Mbappé.

On Sunday, at the club’s traditional Cibeles square celebration spot, team captain Marcelo was interrupted while addressing the tens of thousands of fans as they began singing derogatory chants about Mbappé.

More attacks on Mbappé were heard later Sunday at the Bernabéu as the crowd welcomed the players home to celebrate the latest European title.

Before the final, Madrid players had tried their best not to talk about Mbappé’s decision to reject the club, saying they wanted to stay focused on the match against Liverpool. The news about Mbappé had been attracting much of the attention in Spain, leaving the Champions League final to the side.

Mbappé’s teammate on the French national team, Karim Benzema, had said it was not the time to talk about “small things” like the failed transfer. After the final, Benzema said he would have liked to play with Mbappé, but his decision to stay with PSG had to be respected.

“We will still enjoy playing together in the national team. We are good friends, this will not affect our relationship,” Benzema said. “Everyone is allowed to make their own decision. Real Madrid is still Real Madrid and that’s it.”

After Mbappé announced his decision, Benzema and other Madrid players had been quick to post messages praising the Spanish club.

Mbappé tried not to close any doors with Madrid. He even said he would be cheering for the club in the Champions League final.

Madrid fans didn’t want to hear any of that.

“Mbappé,” read the sign of a celebrating Madrid supporter, “you will regret it.”