Kylian Mbappé is the Heir to Lionel Messi And Cristiano Ronaldo7 min read
Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neymar might have gone home from the World Cup, but Kylian Mbappé has made it all the way to the final, hoping he can provide whatever is necessary to add that second star to France’s jersey.
The Paris Saint-Germain forward is world-renowned after his immense breakthrough season with AS Monaco in 2016-17, which warranted a transfer to his new club last summer. While his first season in the French capital was not as impressive, the 19-year-old still accumulated 21 goals and 16 assists playing on the right-hand side.
Those numbers are still mightily impressive, especially given his age, but given what he has already achieved, expectation to reach new heights is always going to follow. However, with Edinson Cavani and Neymar also occupying roles in the front three, Mbappé is not going to have it all his own way just yet.
Didier Deschamps’ side were one of the favourites coming into this World Cup in Russia, possibly just marginally behind Brazil as the leading candidates to lift the prestigious trophy. It was a slow start for Les Bleus, who looked unconvincing in their opening games against Australia and Peru. At the time of facing Denmark, their fate into the knockout rounds was already sealed and so they played for the tournament’s only 0-0 result.
It wasn’t until Argentina in the round of 16 where France really stepped up to the plate. While this Argentina side are by no means the world beaters they should be, Les Bleus tore them to pieces and exploited the weaknesses in their defence. Mbappé, especially, carved them apart and separated the two centre backs, Marcos Rojo and Nicolás Otamendi, like the Red Sea.
In the lead up to the first goal, Mbappé picked up the ball from deep in his own half, put his head down and just sprinted straight through the feeble wall in front of him. His sheer speed caught Argentina off guard and it was too late for any of their defenders to do anything about it – they were perplexed. It eventually took Rojo to foul him in the penalty area to thwart the immediate danger, but Antoine Griezmann converted from the penalty spot and France took the lead.
Throughout the match Mbappé was constantly playing on the last man and looking to get in behind Jorge Sampaoli’s disorganised defence. The South Americans were totally and utterly clueless of how to stop France’s prodigal son in his tracks. For the PSG forward had too much speed, intelligence, awareness and technical skill to combat.
Mbappé eventually got his two goals in four minutes of one another. The first came just after the hour mark where he controlled a loose ball in Argentina’s area, took it to his left-hand side, created space for himself, opened up his body and struck it firmly and sharply with his weaker left foot. The ball found the back of the net in about two seconds from Mbappé’s first touch. That is how quickly he operates and is why it is so difficult when trying to stop him.
The second goal from the 19-year-old came from a quick break that stunned La Albiceleste into slow motion. A quick one-two between Griezmann and Blaise Matuidi in the middle of the park created space in behind Argentina’s lacklustre midfield. The Juventus midfielder played it into the path of Olivier Giroud who takes one glance and sees Mbappé sprinting in from his right wing position and threads a ball in-between the centre back and left back. The young French superstar sprints at top speed onto the ball and hits it sweetly first time away from goalkeeper Franco Armani and into the bottom left corner to give France the lead.
Two goals, four minutes. It shows just why Mbappé is one of the most feared players in the world right now, and he’s still just a teenager. Neymar is the immediate candidate to replace the hole that Messi and Ronaldo will eventually leave, but looking in the longer term, Mbappé has the characteristics and ability to sit on football’s throne all by himself and carry the sport forward.
It is clear as day that the Frenchman is a once-in-a-generational talent and has already shown he has what it takes to perform at the biggest stage of all. With the World Cup final looming, Mbappé will feel confident that he has the tools to make the difference against Croatia and add that second star to his shirt. If he performs as well as he is capable of, there will be no doubt in anyone’s minds that he really is not only the future of this sport, but also the present.
Mbappé is a special talent and one that should be cherished. With constant Ronaldo vs Messi debates taking up space on the internet, a player who sits out in front all on his own in Mbappé would be a welcomed sight.