Despite financial firepower adding questions over the competitive edge between PSG and their main rivals at the top in Ligue 1, there’s no disputing the sheer number of talented youngsters within France’s top tier. Kylian Mbappe, who flourished as France’s under-19 side enjoyed glory in the European Championships over the summer, is expected to feature on a more regular basis at club level – after bursting onto the scene last term.
Who is Kylian Mbappe?
The 17-year-old can play either in a central forward position, or on either wing. Right-footed with a clinical eye for goal, he broke Thierry Henry’s record in becoming Monaco’s youngest ever goalscorer (17 years, 62 days) during a cameo appearance against Troyes back in February.
He has already been earmarked as one of the talented youngsters to watch out for in France during the current 2016/17 campaign, just highlighting the fact his efforts over the past few months haven’t gone unnoticed.
Given the financial restrictions, Monaco have focused their energies on developing players of their own within the youth ranks, and there’s no doubt Mbappe is definitely one of their best in terms of both quality and potential.
Having officially signed his first professional contract at the start of March this year, his exploits on the international scene with France at youth level haven’t just ignited recognition but also rumoured interest from clubs across Europe – including the Premier League’s best.
It’s clear he is held in high regard, especially as Monaco did well to keep him from the clutches of Real Madrid four years ago when they invited him to their training camp.
Leonardo Jardim had previously described him as a player with “great potential”, but also said he has a lot of work to do if he’s able to reach the top. That being said, international success has driven the teenager to develop further hunger for more trophies and accolades.
His dad, Wilfried, described Kylian as someone who is passionate and “watches everything”, which once again highlights his desire to learn from others and continue improving over time.
Mbappe doesn’t turn 18 until December and it’d be naive to suggest he’d make such a big decision so early in his career, meaning his main focus is on a successful breakthrough in the Monaco first-team this term, aiming to play regularly to continue developing at the rate he is.
He’ll take inspiration from the excellent work shown by Ousmane Dembélé, who scored twelve goals and assisted five more in an inconsistent Rennes side last season.
Both are similar in the way they share attacking versatility, and Dembélé benefited greatly from a breakthrough campaign as he was able to seal a move to Borussia Dortmund in July.
There’s no reason why Kylian can’t enjoy the same success, provided he’s given both adequate patience and opportunities to do so. Last season he played eleven times for the first-team, but made substitute appearances on nine of those occasions.
Impressing during a second-half cameo in the group stages of the UEFA Europa League against Tottenham last term, Monaco’s quality in depth will be tested as they prepare for a step up in competition as Champions League football awaits them this time around.
With that information as well as the importance of leaving a lasting impression in mind, it’ll be interesting to see how Jardim utilises him in the current set-up – Mbappe himself will be quietly confident that he can breakthrough properly this season.
What is his Style of Play?
Mbappe is very much a player who relishes the challenge when taking defenders on, and it allows him to make the winger position his own.
Unafraid to use skills and equally agile, he can often be deceiving – although not as physically strong in comparison to his counterparts, the low centre of gravity he possesses is utilised to good effect alongside his rapid acceleration both on and off-the-ball.
What are his Strengths?
In terms of strengths, Mbappé has plenty. Explosive pace, quick feet and excellent dribbling are all key attributes that make him a nuisance to defend against, especially as he’s capable of shooting with both feet and likes to cut inside before creating a chance.
Something that isn’t usually spoken of is his unselfishness. He’s constantly looking for movement ahead of him from team-mates in better goalscoring positions near the final third, and this is beneficial as it allows the team an attacking outlet to rely on in tricky situations.
His tactical awareness is also another important asset as he’s able to retain possession in key areas of the pitch, allowing other players to get involved with counter-attacking moves and provide support when under pressure from opposition players.
Lastly, his most under-rated attribute is his excellent range of passing. This enables him to pass his way out of danger, and the level of composure he possesses allows him to find team-mates in space when they make promising runs across dangerous areas on the pitch.
What are his Weaknesses?
As for his main weaknesses, Mbappe needs to work on improving his overall defensive contribution when out of possession.
It’s a skill that is becoming increasingly important in the modern game and having a winger that can help support his full-back when in danger could be the difference between keeping a clean sheet and conceding a late goal, for example.
In addition to this, Kylian knows he needs to perform at a high level on a more consistent basis if he’s to consistently start over more experienced players in the Monaco side.
That’s easier said than done considering he needs time to acclimatise to the competitive nature of regular first-team football properly, especially as it’s a steep jump coming from youth level straight into the rigours of a professional side and their opponents.
Lastly, there will be questions over whether he’s physically ready to be thrown into the deep end, so to speak. They finished level on points (65) with Lyon and achieving a top-three finish last term wasn’t as easy as it could’ve been for the team.
Mbappe is the youngest first-team player across all of the top six sides in France.
Although his ability is unquestioned, Monaco should also be cautious not to rush his development too soon as Kylian’s overall height and physique suggest he may struggle with tough tackles and fierce challenges from opponents almost twice his size.