Skip to content

Kylian Mbappe to Real Madrid: Where does forward fit in Carlo Ancelotti's star-studded attack?

Kylian Mbappe has signed for Real Madrid after leaving PSG at the end of his contract; the 25-year-old joins a star-studded attack at the European champions, with Vinicius Jr, Rodrygo and Jude Bellingham among the ranks - but how will the Frenchman fit into the team?

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

French football expert Jonathan Johnson analyses Kylian Mbappe's move to Real Madrid on a free transfer from Paris Saint-Germain

Jude Bellingham slipped in Vinicius Jr to score and Real Madrid's key forward pair had done it. A Champions League trophy delivered without a recognised, world-class No 9 in the team.

All the talk before, during and after Saturday's win over Borussia Dortmund at Wembley surrounded how Carlo Ancelotti has masterminded another Real success having lost Karim Benzema last summer to Saudi Arabia. Now the talk is about how another French forward can take them to another level.

Kylian Mbappe will arrive at Real Madrid having snubbed the Spanish giants three times. Once after a trial with Real's U12 team, then twice to favour PSG in 2017 and 2022. Now he will arrive at the Bernabeu when his new side need him most.

"The only thing we're missing is that clinical nine," said Bellingham after Saturday's Champions League final.

"If he was to come and give us that, we would be in a really great place to go and take us to another level. One of the best players in the world!"

Real will now have their world-class No 9 - arguably one of the best out there. The problem is, what happens to players like Vinicius and Bellingham following their heroics not just at Wembley, but all through the season?

Ancelotti reacted to the loss of Benzema by not directly replacing him, instead adopting a 4-3-1-2 formation, using Vinicius and Rodrygo as 'split forwards' who adopt wide areas - allowing new signing Bellingham to venture in a free role behind them at the tip of a midfield diamond.

Also See:

It is a front three that will not be broken up in terms of transfer sales. Vinicius and Bellingham - with 24 and 23 goals respectively this season - were the two most important players for Real this season. Rodrygo, despite rumours linking him with a move, has vowed to stay in the Spanish capital next season.

But Mbappe is now set to be the jewel in Real's shining crown, following his 256 goals in 308 games in the French capital. Yet how does PSG's old No 7 become Real Madrid's main man, and not take anything away from current Real No 7 Vinicius, who is arguably one of the best players in the world?

An issue could arise given Mbappe and Vinicius both played in the same position this season - and the Brazilian is not going to budge.

"Vinicius has really made the left-hand side his. That is his best position," Spanish football journalist Semra Hunter told Sky Sports News.

Image: Mbappe and Vinicius' heatmap in the Champions League this season

"Let's work under the premise that Ancelotti is going to stick with a 4-4-2 next season, with Jude Bellingham at the top of the midfield diamond.

"That means Vinicius and Mbappe can start in a two-pronged attack, like what Vinicius and Rodrygo have been doing this season."

Replacing Rodrygo will not be an easy decision for Ancelotti, given the Brazilian forward's key role in Real's recent Champions League successes.

The Italian manager would be omitting the player who scored in both legs of this season's quarter-final victory over Manchester City, one that all but made the Champions League Real's to lose. And will Mbappe even accept Rodrygo's current role as 'right forward' to accommodate Vinicius?

There is the argument that Rodrygo barely plays on the right wing, despite being the 'right forward'. Two seasons ago, Ancelotti said the 23-year-old has "so much potential as a centre forward or a second striker", implying his role in Real's 4-3-1-2 is as central as it looks - making it perfect for Mbappe, who always preferred the No 9 role to a wide one at PSG.

Or could all four - Mbappe, Vinicius, Rodrygo and Bellingham - play together in an ultra-attacking Ancelotti plan? He adopted a 4-3-3 formation at Real Madrid for years before Benzema's departure, so it would not be an alien move.

"Rodrygo is more tactically flexible - he can play on the right, left or as a No 10," added Hunter.

"He could play 4-3-3, with Mbappe in the middle and Vinicius and Rodrygo on the wings. But that means he would have to sacrifice a midfielder and they are so stacked in that area. I don't see that happening too often."

Mbappe is not the only new arrival at Real this summer, with Brazilian starlet Endrick also putting another dazzling option among the ranks. Given the 17-year-old's heroics to date for club and country, do not be surprised if he has something to say in this debate.

But the teenager will develop in his own time while the world watches Mbappe. He is the man Real Madrid are bringing in to dominate Europe.

And if they are winning Champions League titles without him, what are the Spanish giants going to achieve with him?

Win £250,000 with Super 6!
Win £250,000 with Super 6!

Correctly predict six scorelines for a chance to win £250,000 for free. Entries by 3pm Saturday.

Around Sky