One of the summer’s most intriguing transfer stories has finally drawn to a close after Paris Saint-Germain agreed a one-season loan deal for Kylian Mbappé, luring the 18-year-old striker from Monaco with the option to make his stay permanent next summer. But just how good is Mbappé, who just over a year ago was starring for France at the UEFA European Under-19 Championship? It’s been some rise.
Name: Kylian Mbappé
Club: Paris Saint-Germain (on loan from Monaco)
Debut: 2 December 2015 v Caen (Ligue 1)
Date of birth: 20 December 1998
Preferred foot: right
International: 4 appearances, 0 goals
UEFA club competition: 10 appearances, 6 goal
Domestic top division: 41 appearances, 16 goals
They say …
“My word, he is good. Ooh la la. I met him, and he gave me the impression he has a good head on his shoulders. l really like watching him play. He thinks. Yes, he’s quick, but he’s thinking and that is the sign of a kid who can go a long way in the game.”
Thierry Henry, former France striker
“Mbappé is a very good player. He is an 18-year-old talent and he has got the right temperament. He is a great player; he showed it throughout the year.”
Zinédine Zidane, Real Madrid coach
“Mbappé is not exactly the same as Thierry Henry, but it’s true he has similar qualities. The talent is similar. After that, does he have the same level of motivation, desire and intelligence that Thierry had? The next two years will tell us that, but the first signs are very promising.”
Arsène Wenger, Arsenal manager
“He knows his strengths – he knows he is only 18. He has had a great year, but he will come on as he has the determination and the ability to do so.”
David Trezeguet, former France striker
“He is mature on and off the field. He is fast and reacts quickly. What he is doing at his age is remarkable … You would never guess he is only 18.”
Didier Deschamps, France coach
“He’s more than passionate [about football] – he’s crazy. I work in football and he almost puts me off it because he’s always into it 24/7. He watches everything; he can watch four or five matches in a row.”
Wilfried Mbappé, Kylian’s father
Mbappé was born into a sporting family – his father was a coach at his first club, Bondy, his brother played for Rennes and his mother was a top handball player. After Bondy, he went to Paris to join the revered Clairefontaine academy, and moved to Monaco in 2013.
An obvious star in waiting as he featured in France’s success at the 2016 UEFA European U19 Championship in Germany, he proceeded to be one of the stars of the 2016/17 UEFA Champions League season. As Monaco reached the semi-finals, he became the first player to score in his first four knockout phase games – and ended his maiden campaign in Europe’s top club competition with six in ten appearances.
Playing style …
His former coach at Clairefontaine, Jean-Claude Lafargue, has described him thus: “He’s a wide forward, he can dribble well and cause panic in the final third. He is an explosive player. He doesn’t have the same touch as other players – he can pass the ball very well with both feet. He can pick passes that others won’t necessarily see.” Though not physically imposing, his speed and low centre of gravity make him a real threat with the ball at his feet.
Shades of …
Thierry Henry, another Monaco product who also came through Clairefontaine, is an obvious point of reference: Mbappé became Monaco’s youngest debutant, aged 16 years and 347 days, beating the record set by Henry, who was 17 years and 14 days when he first turned out for the club.
Ludovic Batelli, Mbappé’s coach with France’s U19s, feels the 18-year-old is already in a field of his own, saying: “Kylian does not want to emulate Thierry Henry. Soon, he will make it so no one can compare him to anyone else.”
He says …
“I am not a phenomenon. Messi, Ronaldo and Neymar are phenomena. I’m still far away from them. When I hear people call me that, I smile. I watch those players, I work, I learn from players like Falcao and Bernardo Silva.”
“I have always worked for the chance to play with and against the best players. When you play in the UEFA Champions League, you meet players like that and you learn fast.”
“Coming to training in the morning is a total pleasure. Time has flown by between the U19 EURO and now. It really has been a brilliant campaign.”
“In football, as long as you believe in yourself and your ability, everything is possible. I have always believed in myself, but that was not enough. I knew I had to work hard to achieve my goals. I am not surprised by what has happened to me. I knew I could make it.”