“My word, is he good. Oh la la, I really like watching him play. When you have a kid with that much talent, what are you going to teach him apart from a few tactical things?”
– Thierry Henry
Date of Birth: December 20, 1998 (18 years old)
Club Appearances: 55 (27 goals)
International Appearances: 2 (0 goals)
EiF Ability Rating: 73.5
*EiF Ability Rating is a representation of a combination of the player’s current ability and potential ability. It is determined by multiple rounds of voting, and then an addition of the scores given by each judge. The maximum score a player can have is 80.*
Coming in at #2 in EiF’s 22under22 Countdown is the young player everyone has been talking about: Kylian Mbappé Lottin. After helping the France Under 19 side to European championship glory last summer, Mbappé has gone on to play a key role in Monaco’s rousing success this year, as the club currently sit atop the Ligue 1 table and have a date with Juventus in the Champions League semifinals. His incredible rise to stardom this season has seen the dynamic striker become one of the hottest transfer targets in football, with the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, and many others keeping close tabs on him. Monaco will be hoping they can keep hold of this French sensation, whom they reportedly value at over £100 million.
— EiF (@EiFsoccer) April 29, 2017
Kylian Mbappé Lottin was born in Bondy, France, where he began plying his trade for hometown club AS Bondy while being coached by his father. He then moved on to the famous Clairefontaine Academy, where his ability was spotted by many Ligue 1 scouts. Eventually, Mbappé settled on signing a youth deal for Monaco. Shortly after his arrival, the Frenchman became the youngest player to ever feature for Monaco, making his debut at the tender age of 16 years and 347 days. This broke the record previously held by Thierry Henry, a player Mbappé has often been compared to. Since then, the 18-year old has not looked back, with many pundits claiming he could be the face of the next generation of French soccer.
Mbappé possesses a rare combination of pace, close control, direct running, and clinical finishing. Whether it is playing on the wings or through the middle, he has the ability to change the complexion of a game. Spearheading a young and vibrant Monaco attack, Mbappé uses his clever off-the-ball movement to create dangerous opportunities for his team. When employed as a striker, Mbappé will often drift wide to create space for Monaco’s midfielders to move through the middle, as well as give himself the opportunity to use his electric pace and dribbling skills to run at defenders. What stands out most about Mbappé is his clinical finishing ability. When he is given a chance, Mbappé will make you pay, as is evident in his haul of 26 goals in 39 games for Monaco this season. Whether on his right or left foot, Mbappé is comfortable shooting and passing, and he does both with aplomb.
Maybe most impressive about Mbappé is the intelligence and composure with which he plays the game at such a young age. He does a brilliant job of recognizing whether to hold the ball up or turn, allowing his teammates to join attacks with more regularity. A great example is in Monaco’s Champions League Quarterfinal second leg against Dortmund. During the buildup to Falcao’s goal, Mbappé does a great job recognizing where the pressure of the defense is coming from, and then has the intelligence to lay the ball off to a teammate, who proceeds to cross it in to Falcao for a goal. This is advanced thinking for any player, much less a player of his young age. Additionally, some of the runs he makes are creative and highly effective, including this ingenious blind side run last week against Lyon (below).
The most extreme blind-side movement ever?! On a more serious note – Mbappé’s movement may be my favourite thing about him. pic.twitter.com/yRR4fzNlgC
— Tom Payne (@TomPayneftbl) April 24, 2017
At times, Mbappe can be overpowered physically, due to his slender stature. Monaco would be careful to give him adequate rest and not overplay him, as often players of his young age burn out due to overuse. Additionally, at times he can be caught out defensively, with his work rate not where it needs to be when the team are not in possession. Finally, he needs to perform at the level he is playing at consistently, as although he has played brilliantly the past couple of months, young talents go on to become elite players when they can maintain their high level of performance over multiple years.
Kylian Mbappé has the potential to become one of the best players in the world, that is in no doubt. This is a large burden for an 18-year-old to carry, as he is already being touted as the leader of France’s young generation of footballers. Many players flame out after moving on to bigger clubs or being overplayed as a youngster. But the confidence and swagger in which Mbappé plays, his serene boyishness, and his love for the game suggest that he will fulfill the lofty expectations thrust upon him and go on to become a world-class player.