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Emotional Mbappé confirms he will leave PSG ahead of an expected move to Real Madrid

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PARIS (AP) — Kylian Mbappé confirmed what the soccer world was long expecting to hear, announcing on Friday he is leaving Paris Saint-Germain ahead of a widely expected move to Real Madrid.

Mbappé said on X that his final home game for PSG will be on Sunday against Toulouse.

“I never thought it would be this difficult to leave my country,” he said in the video post. “I think I needed this, a new challenge after seven years.”

An emotional-looking Mbappé gulped and paused for breath as he addressed PSG’s fans.

“It’s a club I will keep in my mind for my entire life. I will tell everybody I had the chance to play here.” He added, “You will stay in my heart forever,” then winked and raised a thumb.

According to sports daily L’Equipe, Mbappé went to meet and dine with PSG ultras known as CUP (Paris Ultras Collective) shortly after making his announcement. They were set to discuss tributes to him at Parc des Princes on Sunday night.

After that game, French champion PSG has league games to follow at Nice and Metz. He is once more the French league top scorer, with 26 goals.

The 25-year-old Mbappé now captains France and won the World Cup in 2018, becoming the second teenager, after Pelé, to score in a World Cup final. He top-scored at the 2022 World Cup, including a rare hat trick in the final.

Mbappé joined PSG in 2017 from Monaco in a deal worth 180 million euros ($194 million). He is expected to be bought by 14-time Champions League winner Real Madrid.

In 2021, PSG turned down a bid of 180 million euros from Madrid for Mbappé. He renewed his contract with PSG but didn’t take up the option for an extra year. Earlier this year, he told PSG he’s leaving at the end of the season.

On Friday, he confirmed it.

“I wanted to announce to you all that it’s my last year (season) with Paris Saint-Germain. I will not extend (my contract) and the adventure will come to an end in a few weeks,” he said. “First of all, I want to thank my teammates, all the teammates I had, all the coaches: Unai Emery, Thomas Tuchel, Mauricio Pochettino, Christophe Galtier and Luis Enrique.”

He has 255 goals for PSG, many of them featuring his trademark move: Sprinting down the left wing, cutting inside a wrong-footed defender and curling the ball into the right corner with speed and precision.

While his prolific output helped to deliver six league titles in seven years, it also often masked glaring deficiencies that were exposed at the highest level in the Champions League.

On Tuesday night, he trudged off the field when PSG went out of the semifinals of the Champions League after losing to Borussia Dortmund 1-0 in each leg.

Mbappé’s departure will end the superstar era at PSG.

He arrived at the club along with Neymar, who cost a world record 222 million euros ($239 million). PSG was also a stop for Zlatan Ibrahimovic (156 goals for the club), Edinson Cavani (200 goals for PSG) and Lionel Messi (won his seventh of eight Ballon d’Ors).

None could win the Champions League with PSG, which has spent more than 2 billion euros ($2.15 billion) in transfer fees and paid massive wages. The fact Mbappé played under so many coaches also underlined the hire-and-fire attitude of the club’s cash-rich Qatari owner QSI, which took over the club in June 2011.

Mbappé starred for Monaco as an 18-year-old sensation when it reached the semifinals of the Champions League seven years ago. PSG beat Madrid to his signature then, but things seem to have come full circle, and he will leave as a free transfer.

By the time Madrid likely signs him, the Spanish powerhouse may have clinched a record-extending 15th Champions League title.

Madrid plays Dortmund in the final on June 1 at Wembley, one week after Mbappé’s last ever game for PSG in the French Cup final against Lyon.

It wasn’t the way he hoped to bow out of French club soccer.

But joining a massive club like Madrid surely gives him a better shot at winning the Ballon d’Or he so craves.

PSG has to find a new leader.

After Mbappé wears the No. 7 jersey for the last time, PSG will face a huge rebuilding task without him.

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer

By JEROME PUGMIRE
AP Sports Writer

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