At just 23 years old, Kylian Mbappé has earned more in his short career than most players are ever able to achieve.
He has already won five national titles in France, scored 250 career goals and, four years ago, lifted the World Cup trophy.
Although he has already proven he belongs in the elite, Mbappé has continued to improve season after season and this year’s World Cup arguably looks like he is going out on his own as the best player in the world. .
It’s a title that’s not without dispute, however.
While an aging Cristiano Ronaldo can claim no more, Mbappé’s Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Lionel Messi – who has won seven Ballon d’Ors – has produced some fascinating performances for Argentina in Qatar. And let’s not forget players like Erling Haaland, who failed to qualify for the tournament with Norway but promises to challenge Mbappé for honours.
But, as this is Messi’s last World Cup, former France international and current Bordeaux manager Rio Mavuba says this tournament has seen the baton of greatness pass to Mbappé.
“In this World Cup, it’s the transfer of power from Messi to Mbappe,” he told CNN, ahead of the duo’s World Cup final showdown on Sunday.
“Messi is still one of the greatest, perhaps the best player of all time, but at this stage Mbappé can eat at the same table as Messi.
“When he’s focused he’s probably the best player in the world.”
Mavuba made 13 appearances for France and was included in Didier Deschamps’ squad for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
He has watched young Mbappé quickly become France’s most important player from afar and says the forward’s pace and finishing prowess make him ‘unstoppable’ at times.
Mbappé was born and raised in Bondy, a suburb of Paris 11 kilometers from the city center and, aside from a two-year stint playing for Monaco, has lived in the French capital all his life.
His spell at Monaco, where he won his first league title, caught the world’s attention and the teenage sensation moved to PSG in 2017, initially on loan for the first year.
The deal is said to be worth $214 million, but Mbappé appeared to take it all in his stride.
Despite all the trophies he has won and the goals he has scored, Mavuba says the striker is only now reaching his peak.
“Of course he has a lot of speed, but I think the best skill is that he can do a lot of things. He can run fast, he can dribble, he can score, that’s why it’s very difficult to catch him,” he said.
While Mbappe’s physical attributes are undeniable, it’s his ability to cope with such intense pressure that separates him from others, according to former Paris Saint-Germain captain Didier Domi.
Domi, who has played more than 100 games for PSG and now works for the club’s academy in Qatar, says Mbappé carries the weight of a nation on his shoulders, but it seems his worth goes beyond his performance on the field and in the political arena. .
French President Emmanuel Macron stepped in earlier this year to implore the young star to stay at PSG amid a transfer saga involving Spanish giants Real Madrid.
But despite all the pressure both on and off the pitch, Mbappé continues to produce the goods.
“His game is so amazing, but the way he lifts the team is what impressed me the most, mentally,” Domi told CNN.
“We know his qualities with his feet but mentally he stays in that area, as a leader, always being crucial for the team. It’s impressive.
“He has a talent, of course, but he also has a talent in his head. He controls his nerves and that’s part of the game.
“It’s unbelievable, he doesn’t feel any pressure. He was gifted.
While Mbappé likely has over a decade to play at the highest level, Qatar 2022 also marks the end of the greatest rivalry in football history – it’s the last time we see Ronaldo and Messi playing at a World Cup.
But as this chapter comes to an end, Mbappé has the chance to take center stage.
“He [Mbappé] will be the legacy of Messi and Ronaldo, maybe he is already the best player in the world,” added Domi.
“He doesn’t have Messi’s vision but, at his best, Mbappé is the best player in the world. He can make a difference at any moment.”
Mbappé has scored five goals in Qatar – level with the top scorer with Messi – taking his World Cup tally to nine in just two tournaments.
Just Fontaine is the only Frenchman to score more World Cup goals – scoring all 13 in 1958.
More importantly, Mbappé is set to win his second consecutive World Cup, which would potentially make him the greatest French player in history, according to Mavuba.
“If he won the second World Cup, he would probably be the best French player,” Mavuba said.
“I like [Zinedine] Zidane but imagine, 23 years old, two World Cups, he would be the best.
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Zidane was part of the World Cup-winning squad in 1998 and the midfield maestro won the Ballon d’Or in the same year.
Mbappe is still awaiting his first Ballon d’Or, but Mavuba insists glory with the national team matters more than any individual accolades.
“It’s very difficult to win the World Cup, you see Messi, Ronaldo and Neymar [not win one]but Mbappé has a chance to win two World Cups,” he said.
“It’s better to win two World Cups than five or seven Ballon d’Ors.”
With Messi’s Argentina the only obstacle in his way, Mbappé has a huge opportunity to claim the title of best player in the world.
In truth, he still has a long way to go before he equals the legacies of Ronaldo and Messi, but already, at such a young age, he has done things that these other superstars have so far failed to achieve. To do.