Arsène Wenger this week revealed his interest in AS Monaco’s talented young forward Kylian Mbappé but who is the versatile attacker that has drawn comparisons to Thierry Henry?
Mbappé, 18 was born into a sporting family with both parents professionals in different sports. Playing his first games aged six at AS Bondy with father Wilfried watching on, it soon became clear that the Paris-born youngster was be tipped for greatness.
So, how good is he?
His Ligue 1 debut, at 16 years and 11 months, in December 2015 was even earlier than Thierry Henry when he started. Despite playing for a top-level side that continue to improve, it was his performances with France’s u17 and u19 sides that attracted interest from Europe’s top clubs.
On comparisons between Mbappé and Thierry, Wenger said: “The potential is similar, after that if he has the same level of motivation, desire and intelligence that Thierry has, and the next two to three years will tell us that, then he can be very promising.
“We follow him, we know him very well and he is developing well. He extended his contract with Monaco last season and so it’s Monaco who is going to decide his future. He could be another Thierry Henry,” Wenger continued.
Zinedine Zidane made an approach for the teenager back in 2013 before he opted to sign with Monaco, citing an eagerness to remain in his place of birth and an opportunity to avoid too much expectation at such a young age as the main reasons behind the decision.
“He [Zidane] was touching, honest with me,” M’Bappe said. “It was a great moment. In the end, I didn’t join Real Madrid because I wanted to stay in my country, I didn’t want to leave so early. It wouldn’t have worked. I chose to come to Monaco and I made the right choice.”
He hasn’t looked back since.
Influential in helping France’s u19 side lift European Championship glory last summer, the winger has been rewarded with more first-team opportunities under Leonardo Jardim this term.
With six goals and seven assists in all competitions this season, he has excelled in an ever-improving Monaco side – one which has scored a whopping 68 goals in 23 league matches already.
His versatility means he is a valuable asset in a multitude of positions, something which makes him all the more attractive. With the ability to play across the forward line, as a winger and also in the number ten role, he continues to develop and his game is maturing with experience.
If you had the privilege to watch him last summer, you’d already be able to see subtle differences in the way he performs. Constantly looking to involve teammates in build-up play, his passing is more accurate and probing. He is picking better moments to run at players and although there are questions about defensive contribution out of possession, this is definitely something that can be improved.
Could Arsenal sign him?
The simple answer is yes. But there never are simple answers with regards to transfers at Arsenal.
M’bappé turned 18 in December and will be keen to establish himself as a first-team regular at Monaco before he thinks about a moving away from France, which could be another year or two at least.
The fact that he has rejected bigger moves already means he has playing time in mind. Given the amount of competition for places at Arsenal, not least in attack positions, he’d be wasted if Arsenal were to try and sign him at some point in the near future.
He’s young, hungry and extremely talented. There will be a plethora of Europe’s big clubs sniffing around when he is available. It’s likely he won’t be cheap, either, as Monaco gradually move away from the selling club tag that has forced them to invest heavily in their Academy players recently.