Kylian Mbappé: The Prodigy
This year’s World Cup left us many surprises. For the first time in history it was held at Russia, and the host country didn’t disappoint; VAR system was introduced and it brought justice to the sport for the majority of football lovers (some voices claim it’s been a disaster); shocking early leavings with the likes of Germany, Portugal and Spain all failing to reach the quarter-finals; Island, a country of just 348,580 inhabitants qualified while teams with a remarkable history such as Italy and the Netherlands didn’t make it; there was just one goalless draw at the 2018 World Cup (France vs Denmark), the fewest at any World Cup tournament since 1954, when there were none and this year’s World Cup saw the most own goals scored during a FIFA World Cup (overall) with a total of 12.
Among the records and surprises the tournament left us, the ones who have France, the winning side, as protagonist, might be the most impressive. Didier Deschamps joins the club of the legends who have won the World Cup both as players and as managers, as only Franz Beckenbauer and Mario Zagallo had achieved it. It was 1998 when Deschamps captained France as they won the World Cup on home soil in Paris, holding an integral role in the team. This year, he was able to consolidate as manager a tremendous team that won without much difficulties the tournament.
Though Deschamps was a remarkable and crucial part of France’s victory, there’s one player who was just as important: Kylian Mbappé. Born in Paris, France, the winner of FIFA Best Young Player Award is just 19 years old. He became the second teenager, after Pelé, to score in a World Cup Final; he finished as the joint second-highest goalscorer and he received the Best Young Player Award for his performances. Kylian wasn’t even born when Deschamps commanded the French side to their first World Cup victory in 1998. Feel old yet?
Before the tournament began, Mbappé was a promising star, as his transfer fee from Monaco to PSG can tell, but after his astonishing performance this World Cup, it wouldn’t be foolish to say that we may be contemplating the rise of the next superstar of the sport, the one called to replace Messi and Ronaldo.
Born in rise in the Banlieu
Mbappé was born in the Banlieus of Paris, that’s to say the poor suburbs located in the outskirts of the French metropolis. His father, Wilfried Mbappé, is from Cameroon, and, as well as being his agent, is a football coach, while his mother, Fayza Lamari, was an Algerian handball player who made Kylian grow up with modest means and athletism running into his veins. Bondy, situated 11 kilometers northeast of central Paris, is home to AS Bondy, Mbappe’s first football club, where he took his first steps in the beautiful game.
One of his youth coaches at AS Bondy, Antonio Riccardi, stated:
“The first time I coached him was when he was six years old. You could tell he was different. Kylian could do much more than the other children. His dribbling was already fantastic and he was much faster than the others. He was the best player I’ve ever seen in 15 years coaching here. In Paris there are many talents but I’d never seen a talent like him. He was what we call a ‘craque’ (the best).”
The young Mbappé moved quickly to Clairefontaine -the French Football Federation’s official academy- putting on a host of impressive performances leading to numerous French clubs, and Real Madrid, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Bayern Munich, attempting to sign him. Ultimately, he was signed by Monaco, where his talent was catalyzed.
Mbappé made his first team debut on 2 December 2015. It was a 1–1 Ligue 1 home draw against SM Caen, replacing Fábio Coentrão after 88 minutes. He thus became Monaco’s youngest-ever first-team player, with just 16 years and 347 days. 21 years earlier, Tierry Henry had broken the record for the first time, but Mbappé surpassed him this time.
Comparisons were naturally drawn to France’s most prolific striker, Thierry Henry; both careers began at AS Monaco and their electric pace and skill are similar, but Vasilyev, AS Monaco vice president and the man who gave Mbappe his first professional contract, told CNN Sport ahead of the World Cup final he feels these are misplaced.
“It’s not just ‘very good,’ it’s not ‘top,’ it’s a phenomenal player. He has all the ingredients. Of course, it happened more quickly than anybody could have envisaged, even himself, that’s for sure. He breathes football, sleeps football, actually nothing else on his mind. But he’s doing it at this level and I’m not surprised at all. It just confirmed what we knew all along, he’s an amazing talent and this boy will become one of the best — if he isn’t already — one of the best in world.”
Mbappé then quickly established himself as a regular goalscorer for the first team in the 2016–17 season, as he helped the club gain their first Ligue 1 title in seventeen years. A year later, he was transferred to Paris Saint-Germain for €180 million, making him the most expensive teenager, and the world’s second-most expensive player in history. In his debut season in the French city, Mbappé was crucial for the club’s winning of the domestic treble: Ligue 1, Coupe de France, and Coupe de la Ligue.
Mbappé crushing it at his Monaco days.
Russia 2018 World Cup
On 17 May 2018, Mbappé was called up to the France squad for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. He didn’t take long to score, as he made a beautiful goal against Peru in the group phase to become the youngest French goalscorer in World Cup history at age 19. On the 30th of June, he was named Man of the Match in the knockout phase against Argentina, scoring twice and suffering a foul in the box which resulted in Antoine Griezmann opening the score from a penalty kick. Mbappé was the second teen to score two goals in a World Cup match after Pelé achieved it in 1958.
Mbappé after scoring the first goal against Argentina.
The day of the final arrived. Croatia arrived for the first time to such instance commanded by Luka Modric hoping to bring glory home, but they didn’t manage to beat a confident and powerful France. Mbappé scored with a 25-yard strike and he became on the way the second teenager, after Pelé, to score in a World Cup Final. With four goals in the tournament, he finished second in the race for the golden boot and received the FIFA World Cup Best Young Player Award.
One thing surprises the most about the rising star: his generosity. Mbappé is donating his World Cup winnings — reportedly as much as $500,000 — to Premiers de Cordée, a charity that offers sporting opportunities to children who are hospitalized or have disabilities, which is based at the Stade de France. He hasn’t forgotten where he comes from, showing immense values and a great humanity in the process of becoming an elite player. We’re just beginning to hear about Mbappé, and will continue to do it for many, many years, that’s for sure.