Football is not short of wonderkids.
Young players are chucked on the hype wagon at the earliest show of promise.
They are mercilessly labelled the next Maradona or Messi by all sorts of immoral propaganda merchants (not this site of course . . . ).
This is neither fair nor beneficial to a player’s development but it is sadly the way of the modern game.
Reputation counts for far too much these days. But potential is a valuable commodity and everyone is looking for the next big thing.
So it is refreshing and important when a hyped up youngster starts to turn potential into something more tangible.
Kylian Mbappe has been on the radar of Europe’s top clubs since he was 11. He has trained with, and rejected, Chelsea and Real Madrid among others and is doing very well with AS Monaco.
He played a massive role in France’s recent victory at the UEFA Under 19 Championship in Germany.
Mbappe was the youngest member of the France squad but was one of its brightest performers. His inventive, infectious skill, devastating speed and energetic attacking were a major factor in their win.
The only ‘1998’ in the France squad, Mbappe played with the prodigious ability that saw him break Thierry Henry’s record to become Monaco’s youngest ever player in December 2015.
This France U19 team is full of excellent prospects, and this victory was very much a team effort, but Mbappe’s natural ability stood out and was respected by his peers.
His captain, Lyon’s Lucas Tousart, described his qualities to UEFA.com:
“You can call him the dynamite or the explosion! Another who’s been a revelation at this tournament. Full of passion, his game is all about rhythm. Can eliminate an opponent with impressive ease; in a ten-metre race he could win by three metres. Defending against him is very, very tricky. He’s our little nugget” – Lucas Tousarrt on Kylian Mbappe.
Mbappe scored five goals in Germany and created numerous chances to further cement his reputation as one of the most promising young attackers around.
He has been linked to all of Europe’s top clubs – Bayern Munich, PSG, Borussia Dortmund and Juventus among them– but none more heavily than Real Madrid.
Mbappe is a big Real fan and has been courted consistently by the Castilian giants.
Madrid turned on the charm when trying to recruit him at 14 sending Zinedine Zidane himself to welcome him to a week’s training.
In the end he signed for Monaco after spending time at Clairfontaine – just like Henry.
French media have likened him to a more recent Monaco graduate however christening Mbappe the ‘new Martial.’
Watching him play it is not hard to see why. There is definitely something of the Manchester United starlet in the way Mbappe bisects defences from the left wing.
Like Martial he is ferociously quick with and without the ball, has numerous tricks up his sleeve, is comfortable receiving the ball when closely marked and supremely confident in one-v-one situations.
Monaco will do well to hold onto their latest wonderkid in the medium, let alone long, term.
Mbappe is contracted until 2019 and Monaco are already trying to convince him to sign a longer, more lucrative, deal.
Martial became the world’s most expensive teenager when he left Monaco for Manchester United for close to £60 million at 19 in September 2015.
Mbappe is a long, long way from the level of his countryman but there is no denying that he is one of the most promising attackers in Europe.
No player is deserving of the hype that befalls a 21st century wonderkid but Mbappe is handling the burden well. He is grounded, mature and modest. His family can take much credit for this.
Mbappe’s father was a footballer and coached him at his first club, AS Bondy, his brother played at Rennes while his mother was a successful handball player. He does not have to turn far for good advice.
France will travel to the 2017 Under 20 World Cup in South Korea with fellow UEFA qualifiers Italy, England and Portugal. Whether he is still with Monaco by the time the tournament kicks off in May remains to be seen.
It is likely that he will have had more first team experience by then and that the hype surrounding him will have increased even further. But we can expect him to take it in his stride.
Mbappe is ambitious and certainly not afraid to aim high – his dream is to win the Balon d’Or.
“It is better to shoot for the moon,” he said when discussing his goal. “That way if you miss at least you can land on a cloud.”