Kylian Mbappe: the Monaco teen who might be Europe's most wanted youngster
The 60-second story
- Date of birth: 20 December, 1998
- Place of birth: Bondy, France
- Height: 5ft 9in
- Position: Striker
- Club: Monaco (15 apps, 1 goals)
- International: France U19 (8 caps, 7 goals)
If a study of psychology’s self-fulfilling prophecy theory was ever conducted in the world of football, 17-year-old Kylian Mbappe would be a prime candidate for analysis. Compared to Thierry Henry soon after joining Monaco's junior ranks for his similar quick feet, darting runs and vision, Mbappe went on to break two of the legendary French forward’s records within his first season of first-team action.
Despite huge interest from Europe's elite, Mbappe opted to sign his maiden professional contract with Monaco earlier this year, eventually penning a three-year deal. “This is the club that's helped me grow,” he said. “I feel good here, and I'm going to be able to continue taking new steps forward.”
Born and raised in the suburbs of Paris, Mbappe started out at AS Bondy, where his father Wilfried coached. A stint at the famous Clairefontaine academy followed, before a host of impressive performances had numerous French clubs trying to sign him. Mbappe ultimately settled on Monaco, following the same path trodden by Henry over 20 years earlier.
Why you need to know him
His decision to continue playing in his home country was vindicated when he broke the first of Henry’s records, becoming Monaco’s youngest-ever debutant against Caen at the tender age of 16 years 347 days
If Arsenal, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Chelsea, Liverpool, Juventus, PSG, Manchester United, Manchester City and Real Madrid are all interested in Mbappe, then you should be too. So enamoured were Madrid after one of his matches at Clairefontaine that Zinedine Zidane was drafted in to welcome the then-14-year-old when he was invited to a week’s trial at the Bernabeu.
Despite los Blancos pulling out all the stops to woo Mbappe – a fan of the club since childhood – the teenager turned down a permanent offer because he didn't want to leave France so early in his career. His decision to continue playing in his home country was vindicated when he broke the first of Henry’s records, becoming Monaco’s youngest-ever debutant against Caen aged 16 years 347 days. Two months later Mbappe got himself in the club's history books again, nudging Henry into second place on Monaco's list of youngest goalscorers.
Mbappe scores against Troyes
The teenager capped a fine debut season by scoring five times for France as they won the U19 European Championship, the striker almost single-handedly securing their spot in the final with a sparkling showing in their 3-1 defeat of Portugal.
With a change of pace so quick that he can flummox even the best Ligue 1 defenders, Mbappe has the skill to play off the last defender or cut in from the left
Fast, direct and bragging more tricks to get out of tight spaces than Harry Houdini, it's easy to see why Mbappe has been likened to compatriot Henry.
With a change of pace so quick that he can flummox even the best Ligue 1 defenders, Mbappe has the skill to play off the last defender or cut in from the left. Notably comfortable on both feet and with game intelligence beyond his years, the 17-year-old is also able to pick out passes that others would struggle to even think of.
Importantly, despite all the attention he’s received in recent year, Mbappe has stayed grounded – the arrogance needed to succeed on the pitch is not replicated off it thanks to his close-knit family.
While his ability to play anywhere across the forward line boosts his chances of starting games, it also means he must learn a variety of different defensive duties
Acutely aware of the evolving demands now put on strikers, Mbappe openly admits he must improve his defensive work. While his ability to play across the forward line boosts his chances of starting games, it also means he must learn a variety of different defensive duties.
Mbappe is a dazzling footballer to watch and can infuriate as well as delight: sometimes he's guilty of attempting one run or trick too many. Decision-making, like physicality, will come as he matures and, as with all teenage prospects, a consistent runs of matches – he's yet to start two in a row – would benefit his progress.
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
A keen student of the game, Mbappe has impressed coaches and team-mates alike with his work ethic and interest in self improvement, although former Monaco captain Jeremy Toulalan had a word of warning for the youngster: "What he's showing for his age is interesting. But the path is long. I've seen others before who didn't come through. He has to be attentive and make the right choices."
Yet if he’s as keen about football as his father indicates, there should be little reason to suggest he cannot overcome those challenges: "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."
Did you know?
Mbappe is from a family of sports fanatics. Alongside his father’s football coaching job, his half-brother Jirès Kembo Ekoko is also a professional player currently plying his trade for UAE outfit Al Nasr. His mother, Fayza, is a former handball player. He didn't really have much other choice but to be a sportsman.
What happens next...
With a contract that runs until 2019, Mbappe's in no rush to leave Monaco any time soon. The economic nature of French football means a sizeable offer could see him depart earlier than expected, however, with Anthony Martial's switch to Manchester United last summer a case in point.
Game time was a key reason for him originally joining Monaco ahead of other more high-profile clubs and, as indicated by half-brother Ekoko, Mbappe won't want to sit on the bench now that he's had his first taste of regular first-team action.
The lure of Arsenal, Manchester United or Real Madrid would be hard to ignore, though, and all three clubs are known to be monitoring his development closely as Mbappe attempts to fulfil his vast potential.
Mbappe strikes for France's U19s