The Heir To The Football Throne? –

On April 6, 2021, Bayern Munich will meet Paris Saint-Germain in the first-leg quarter-final of the UEFA Champions League at the Allianz Arena. Two hundred and twenty-seven days prior, the two sides met in the final of the competition at the Estadio da Luz, Lisbon and Mbappe was in the PSG team that lost 1-0 to the German side. Revenge is in the air and Mbappe is the key to ensuring victory for his side as he has not looked back since that defeat. In fact, he has not looked back since he came into the limelight some years ago.

kylian mbappe

In early 2017, Mbappe had only played a handful of games for Monaco, won zero caps with France. To say he was relatively unknown is not an understatement. But with a World Cup winners medal in 2018 and that runner’s up badge in Lisbon, the Parisian is now a superstar – the poster boy for PSG’s oil-backed project and French football in general. As an icing on the cake, Mbappe is widely regarded as the most naturally gifted player under the age of 22 alive and kicking anywhere in the world now.

His rise to stardom has been rapid – and he is nowhere near a finished product – so, it is very easy to forget how he has gone from being just another dazzling talented teen off the never-ending French youth academy production line. A possible heir to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as the best player on the planet? Time will tell.

Time must have stood still when Mbappe was born five days to Christmas in 1998. That was in Bondy, 11km north-east of the center of Paris. His parents were both into sports. His father played football to the amateur level and then became a coach at the local club AS Bondy. His mother played handball in the French first division. His brother, Jires Kembo Ekoko, won nine caps (scoring five goals) with the France U21 side between 2009 and 2011. Mbappe clearly had the right pedigree.

“My family having a sporting background definitely helped me because it meant they understood what I wanted to do with my life. It is something they had already lived through themselves, so their experiences meant I had their support and was able to avoid making certain mistakes,” he said.

“When I was younger, Jires was my idol and he used to inspire me. I used to try to watch all his games. We often went to watch him play live in the stadium when he was at Rennes. Having him as my brother made me even more keen to become a footballer.”

kylian mbappe

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Mbappe started out with AS Bondy under the tutelage of his father. And, yes, he got favours from him as “he probably shouted at the other players a bit more than he did at me”!

After a while, the time had come for the protégé to join a professional club. As expected of young talent, there were plenty of offers. But rather than taking the obvious choice and staying closer to home, Mbappe took himself out of his comfort zone. In March 2016, the 15-year-old made the 1,000km move down south.

“I was searching for a big challenge from a football point of view, but the school side of things was also important,” he said.

“Taking all factors into account, Monaco was the best opportunity for me to develop both as a footballer and also as a teenager. It was a long way from home, but during that first year, my father moved down with me to help me settle in. After that, my family also came to Monaco to visit me frequently, so I didn’t get homesick.”

kylian mbappe

On December 14 – a week shy of his 18th birthday – Mbappe made what was only his sixth start of the campaign in a Coupe de la Ligue game at home to Rennes. He scored a hat-trick in Monaco’s 7-0 win, and never looked back.

He ended the 2016-17 season as a Ligue 1 title winner, a UEFA Champions League semi-finalist, and Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year. He scored 26 goals and had 11 assists in all competitions, including six Champions League goals converted at a rate of one in every 89 minutes.

After just one full season at Monaco, PSG snapped him up. Some felt the move came too soon. The reality was that the transfer did not come out of the blues. It was part of a long-term flirtation that meant Mbappe appeared destined to play for his hometown team one day.

kylian mbappe

“I have been in contact with PSG since I was about 10 or 11 years old,” he said.

“They had been interested in signing me when I joined Monaco’s youth academy. Over the years, I have visited the training ground and facilities on several occasions. I had met the previous owners and also the current owners, so signing for PSG was not a big step into the unknown for me. I knew plenty of people at the club without having played here.”

Playing there since 2017 have brought honours to him and the club. Three league titles on the trot, two Coupe de France wins, and another two in Coupe de la Ligue were added to PSG’s trophy cabinets. The individual honour is mindboggling! Care for a list? Here it is:

UNFP Ligue 1 Player of the Year: 2018-19

UNFP Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year: 2016-17, 2017-18, 2018-19

UNFP Ligue 1 Team of the Year: 2016-17, 2017-18, 2018-19

UEFA Champions League Squad of the Season: 2016-17, 2019-20

FIFA FIFPro World11: 2018, 2019

FIFA FIFPro World11 3rd team: 2017

Golden Boy: 2017

Ballon d’Or: 2017 (7th place), 2018 (4th place), 2019 (6th place)

The Best FIFA Men’s Player: 2018 (4th place), 2019 (6th place)

UEFA Men’s Player of the Year Award: 2017 (8th place), 2018 (6th place), 2020 (7th place)

FIFA World Cup Best Young Player Award: 2018

FIFA World Cup Dream Team: 2018

Kopa Trophy: 2018

IFFHS Men’s World Team: 2018

French Player of the Year: 2018, 2019

UEFA Team of the Year: 2018

Ligue 1 Top Goalscorer: 2018–19, 2019–20

Onze de Bronze: 2019

 

It seems Mbappe has the world under his feet. His focus, drive, determination, and brains, as well as talent, have got him where he is today. And tomorrow? Well, the best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today. Mbappe is definitely on the right track!

kylian mbappe

KEY STATS

Mbappe is the second-most-expensive footballer of all time after joining PSG from Monaco initially on a yearlong loan in 2017, then in a deal worth €180m (€145m plus €35m in add-ons) the following summer.

He has scored 24 goals in the Champions League, putting him level with the likes of Paul Scholes, Luis Figo and Gonzalo Higuain. He has got some way to go to catch Ronaldo (134) and Messi (119).

Mbappe is the third highest goalscorer in PSG’s history with 111 in just 153 games. Only Zlatan Ibrahimovic (156 goals in 180 games) and Edinson Cavani (200 in 301) have scored more for the club.

He is only the third player to score a Champions League hat trick against Barcelona, and the first player to do so in almost a quarter of a century. Faustino Asprilla of Newcastle and Andriy Shevchenko of Dynamo Kyiv are the others, both doing so back in 1997.

kylian mbappe

Mbappe is only the second player in the history of both the Champions League and the European Cup to score two or more goals against Barcelona in an away leg of a knockout round fixture. The other? The great Ferenc Puskas, for Real Madrid, in the 1959-60 semifinals.

His hat trick against Barcelona this season means that the young French striker has now scored 2.9% of all the goals the Spanish side have ever conceded at Camp Nou in the Champions League.

Mbappe became the first teenager since Michael Owen to score more than one goal at a World Cup final when he netted four times for France in 2018. The PSG star was not even born when Owen scored twice for England (against Romania and Argentina) at the 1998 World Cup.

His two goals for Les Bleus against Argentina in the 2018 final also saw him become the second-youngest player ever to score twice in a World Cup match since Pele did likewise for Brazil in the 1958 final. Mbappe was 19 years and 207 days old, whereas Pele was 17 years and 251 days.

With Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo most likely not going to win the Ballon D’or this term, delivering the Champions League trophy for PSG will definitely elevate Mbappe as the numero uno of world football.

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