Paris (AFP) – Kylian Mbappe, at just 18 years old, is destined for greatness after joining Paris Saint-Germain on Thursday following a whirlwind first full season at Monaco.
The teen sensation arrives at PSG initially on loan with an option to buy in a deal reportedly worth up to 180 million euros ($214 million), catapulting him into second in the all-time most expensive player list behind new teammate Neymar.
Born and raised in the Paris suburb of Bondy, where his father Wilfried was a coach, Mbappe returns to the French capital after embarking on a path previously trodden by former French hero Thierry Henry, another graduate of Monaco’s academy.
As a supremely gifted youngster, a glorious future for Mbappe was predicted since his early years.
He played in his home town until he was 14, splitting his time between the national training centre at Clairefontaine and school in a nearby village.
Even at this premature stage the precocious Mbappe was courting interest from Europe’s elite, but it was Monaco, in 2013, who convinced his family that the principality was the best place to continue his development.
It wasn’t easy initially as Mbappe struggled to adapt to the demands of such a lifestyle, but he quickly changed, radically overhauling his behaviour to allow his talent to shine.
In 2014, Real Madrid invited Mbappe to Madrid at the request of Zinedine Zidane, and the 15-year-old found himself pictured alongside the club’s Portuguese talisman Cristiano Ronaldo.
But Mbappe’s route to stardom was back in Monaco, where the blistering speed and fluid style of an attacker accustomed to playing on the left wing quickly seduced Leonardo Jardim. At the advice of the club’s youth coaches, he integrated Mbappe into the first team.
He made his Ligue 1 debut against Caen aged just 16. A few weeks later, Mbappe scored his first goal and was rewarded with a first professional contract through to 2019.
In the summer of 2016, after scoring twice to help Monaco’s under-19s beat Lens in the Coupe Gambardella final, he was called up for France at the European Under-19 Championship. Les Bleuets dominated the tournament as Mbappe struck five goals in as many games en route to the title.
– Breakout displays –
Monaco rebuffed advances from Europe’s top clubs, notably turning down an offer of 40 million euros from Manchester City, who were tortured by Mbappe in last season’s Champions League.
Monaco promised Mbappe regular playing time ahead of the 2016-17 campaign, but a concussion suffered on the opening weekend in a 2-2 draw with Guingamp forced him onto the sidelines.
Careful with nursing their young star, not yet legally an adult, back to full health, Mbappe’s father grew impatient with Monaco’s approach but Jardim turned a deaf ear to any unrest.
Mbappe was made to wait, but he was eventually handed his chance in January and grew in influence with each appearance as he provided vital contributions to Monaco’s title chase.
Thrust into the spotlight, his fearlessness and redoubtable skills helped him shatter records set by a teenage Henry on the Mediterranean coast two decades earlier.
By the end of the season he was Monaco’s star attraction. Mbappe scored 26 goals in all competitions as the club ended a 17-year wait for the French title while reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League.
Despite a hatful of missed chances in the last four against Juventus and a heavy defeat against Paris Saint-Germain in the League Cup final where he was subdued by Thiago Silva, Didier Deschamps selected Mbappe for his France senior debut in March.
Since then, and despite the efforts of many in the principality — including Prince Albert — to keep Mbappe at Monaco, it became evidently clear his future lay elsewhere.
The offer of a new contract and a six-fold increase in salary as the face of a new-look Monaco side a year out from the World Cup in Russia couldn’t convince him to stay.
After the likes of Premier League recruits Benjamin Mendy, Bernando Silva and Tiemoue Bakayoko, Mbappe is the latest protagonist in Monaco’s title-winning team to depart.
With the sale of Mbappe, Monaco will have raked in over 350 million euros since pipping PSG to the championship, but their depleted team is starting to resemble a field of ruins.
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