How Good can Mbappe be?
For the last half-decade football fans around the world have been looking for the player who would break the 10-year streak of the Balon D’or (the award for the best player in the world given out annually) going to either Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. Names like Hazard, Neymar and Bale were all touted as the one to breakthrough and yet all have failed. Messi and Ronaldo’s level of consistency over the past decade has been staggering. But someone will have to take over the mantle of the world’s best player when those two finally do fall off and that player is Kylian Mbappe.
Ever since Mbappe broke onto the scene at the age of 17 with the young, exciting Monaco team that shocked everyone by winning Ligue 1 and reaching the Champions League Semi’s, people have been watching him very closely. We will get into what makes Kylian so special, but first, let’s look at his goal record. In the 2016/2017 season, again at just 17, he scored 21 goals (6 in the Champions League) and supplied 8 assists. He did all of this in just 2000 minutes! That is a goal contribution every 74 minutes, absolutely ludicrous. Casual fans didn’t really watch what he was doing in the French league, but that didn’t matter because he showed up when it mattered, in the Champions League. Mbappe scored twice against Manchester City in the RO16, twice against Dortmund in the Quarters and then once more against Juventus in the Semis.
If you call yourself any sort of football fan you know how good Mbappe is, but it cannot be understated how incredible he has been at such a young age. Of course, Mbappe got his big move to PSG in the summer of 2018 after winning the World Cup with France where he won Young Player of the Tournament, scoring 4 times. He was not what everybody expected in that first year with PSG. Of course, he still put up 17 goals and 11 assists in 35 games which is ridiculous, but there was something just seemed off. Part of it was the manager, Unai Emery could have done a much better job putting Mbappe in a better position to succeed, there were also some little injuries and there was also the fact that he was still just 18! Emery was subsequently sacked and we saw Mbappe unleashed in the 2018/2019 season. Playing mostly through the middle, the Frenchman put up just absurd numbers and showed his true potential. 37 goals and 12 assists in just 3000 MINUTES. At the age of 20, Kylian Mbappe was putting up numbers rivalled by only Lionel Messi, truly elite company. Just look at this performance from Mbappe last season, PSG was beating rivals Lyon 1-0 in a tight game, then Mbappe happened.
He absolutely blew them away with his speed, finishing, and intelligent movement putting 4 past Lyon in just 15 minutes.
Now that we have marvelled about Mbappe’s incredible stats, we can get into his potential. Some bold predictions coming up here, I am going to say that Mbappe will not only be the 2020 Balon d’Or winner, but he will also end up winning at least 3 Balon d’Or awards over his career. He will also go down as the top scorer for the French national team and when his career is all said and done, he will be held in the same esteem as French players like Platini, Zidane and Henry.
Now as to why I believe these things, firstly Mbappe has shown he wants to improve and is always trying to get better. A player like Mbappe who is faster than literally everybody could rely on his speed to get by, but he hasn’t done that. His finishing, movement, and overall link-up play has improved every year and for a young player as talented as him that is so important. He can beat any defender in the world one v one, he can play any position across the forward line and he can finish with both feet. He also has shown the ability to be a world-class poacher and yet is also a good playmaker for his age. In a lot of cases similar to Mbappe, young players have a lot of flair and technique, but the end product tends to be lacking, Mbappe has shown that end product is not a problem for him. He started this year on the injury table and only returned last month, but already he has 7 goals and 4 assists in just 400 minutes. That is a goal contribution every 36 minutes by the way, yes THIRTY-SIX. Mbappe has also shown his ability to overcome adversity so early on in his career, last season PSG were knocked out of the Champions League after a putrid performance at home where they blew a 2-0 aggregate lead to a less than inspiring Manchester United team. Mbappe, although scoring once and providing an assist in the two games, was scapegoated. The second leg was not his best performance by any means, he flubbed two good chances and was sloppy overall, but he was not the worst player on the pitch, not even close yet he was dragged through the mud for four days. PSG’s first game after the debacle was at home against Marseille, “Le Classique” as it is called in France, the biggest game the league has to offer. With the game deadlocked at 0-0, Mbappe did this,
A brilliant finish and a celebration that had social media buzzing. A shrug of the shoulders as to say “I am still here” twenty years of age and he was not bothered one bit by getting scrutinized by national and continental media.
Young players regularly get high expectations thrown on them unfairly after one good season or performance and they struggle to live up to the hype. Mbappe is the outlier, like Messi and Ronaldo before him, he has exceeded every expectation asked of him and more and he doesn’t look like slowing down. Mbappe has become not just a global superstar, but a phenomenon. Nike’s most marketable football star behind CR7, Kylian represents everything a young footballer wants to be. He is confident, unfazed, fashionable and is an overall likeable guy. Mbappe is not expected to stay with PSG for much longer, Real Madrid has always seemed like the next option and rumours of him going to Liverpool are only picking up steam. It doesn’t matter where he plays, he will score goals in any league, but some have doubts about the quality of Ligue 1 compared to the other top 5 leagues and honestly, a player like Mbappe deserves to be centre stage at all times.