Paris (AFP) – At just a tender 18 years of age, Monaco’s Kylian Mbappe is already turning heads around Europe after tormenting defences throughout France and scoring against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in the Champions League.
With 16 goals in 30 appearances for the French league leaders this season, including nine in his past eight games, the teenage prodigy is drawing plenty of comparisons to former France star Thierry Henry.
“We didn’t expect such a rapid and sudden explosion,” Alessandro Grandesso, a Paris-based journalist with Gazzetta dello Sport, told AFP. The Italian sports daily recently ranked Mbappe fifth in a list of Europe’s 30 most promising talents.
And while playing down a potential move to Italy, Grandesso highlighted the resemblance between Henry and his heir apparent, both of whom broke into the professional ranks with Monaco.
“It’s true that he is gaining visibility and benefitting from the comparison with Thierry Henry, thanks to his quite similar style,” Grandesso explained.
The connection with the 1998 World Cup winner is particularly prevalent in England, where Henry flourished as part of Arsenal’s great ‘Invincibles’ side.
Few men are as qualified as Arsene Wenger, who launched a bid for Mbappe last summer, to discuss the likeness of the two players.
“He reminds me of a young Thierry Henry with the same clever look about him,” Wenger said last week.
“They have the same qualities of intelligence in his movement and cat-like finishing.”
The Arsenal manager added: “I approached him last year because I really believe that he has an exceptional future ahead of him.”
– Bidding war awaits –
But Mbappe, who broke Henry’s longstanding record as Monaco’s youngest goalscorer, would be well-served to carefully take stock of his options in the summer when Europe’s leading clubs will undoubtedly seek to wrest him away from the Stade Louis II.
Anthony Martial, another former Monaco starlet, celebrated his big-money arrival at Manchester United in style with a debut goal against Liverpool but has struggled to fully impose himself at Old Trafford following a bright start.
On the contrary, Grandesso believes there is also a danger attached to staying at Monaco should the team be dismantled next season.
“He must properly understand what the club wants to do. If it’s to stay in a team that starts over from scratch, I don’t really see the appeal,” he said.
But rather than signing for one of Europe’s heavyweights, Grandesso suggested joining a club slightly below the top rung in England or Germany, using it as a stepping stone where he would be guaranteed playing time.
There are also surplus rumours of a move to the Bundesliga, with Bayern Munich unsurprisingly top of the list, but so far there is little evidence to substantiate such claims.
Dortmund are in the picture too, their nurturing of another France youngster, Ousmane Dembele, mapping out a possible future path were Mbappe to land in the Ruhr valley.
But he remains under contract with Monaco until June 2019 and Mbappe’s immediate focus is helping the attractive principality outfit overturn a 5-3 deficit against Manchester City in Wednesday’s last 16 second leg.