Monaco's Kylian Mbappe reminds me of a young Neymar - Karim Benzema
Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema says Monaco forward Kylian Mbappe reminds him of Barcelona's Neymar given the talent the youngster has displayed in his breakthrough season.
Mbappe was not known by many prior to the 2016-17 campaign, having made just 11 Ligue 1 appearances while scoring only once for Monaco.
But the 18-year-old has rocketed to prominence over the course of the season, with 14 league goals and six in as many starts en route to the Champions League semifinals.
His performances have reportedly caught the eye of a host of Europe's top clubs, and Benzema is another who has been impressed by the teenager.
"What Mbappe does now in Ligue 1 and even more so in the Champions League in Monaco's great run is exceptional. The last player who seemed as good and precocious at this level? Neymar," the Madrid forward told L'Equipe before sounding a note of caution.
"He's a phenomenon for his age, but he needs to establish himself in the long term. At the start, the superlatives come quickly. I was branded in the same way when I made my debut in Lyon's first team aged 17 -- I scored my first Champions League goal and then became Ligue 1's leading scorer in 2008. You have to keep the same standard when you grow and are in difficult times.
"It's then that you see if you can make a step up, even more so if you're at a very big club or if you remain a good player as many have after shining very young."
Benzema has built on his potential and talent since moving from Lyon to Madrid in 2009. The 29-year-old boasts an impressive average of roughly a goal every other game over his career with the European champions, and receives plaudits for his all-round play as well as his goals.
Given the focus on Cristiano Ronaldo by the media, Benzema enjoys less of the spotlight than he might at other clubs, but the striker says he is more than just part of the Portugal captain's supporting cast.
"I often heard it said that I'm at Cristiano's service. That's not true. That's not how it is," Benzema, who has nine La Liga goals to Ronaldo's 22 this term, said. "I get on well, especially with good players. If a player makes a good run, the right movement with the right timing, it's easier to have an understanding.
"Cristiano scores more with his enormous talent. I don't need him to thank me. We're friends, but above all great professionals. Cristiano has also given me quite a few assists. Perhaps that's highlighted less. He's also a real team player. That's all the difference in the analysis.
"Between us, I think we're not far off 150 Champions League goals for Real and I don't know how many assists for each other. We know each other by heart. That's also why we have lasted together for eight seasons in the biggest club in the world."
Despite having helped Madrid to this season's Champions League final and contributed to his club's push for the La Liga title, Benzema remains an outcast at international level with France.
He has not added to his 81 caps since October 2015 after it emerged he was being investigated by police over whether or not he played a role in the alleged attempted extortion of his international teammate Mathieu Valbuena. The probe remains ongoing.
Last month, Benzema revealed France coach Didier Deschamps had not made contact since a request for an explanation for his situation.
And he reiterated his demand that Deschamps talk him through the reasons for his exile.
"I wasn't twice in the France team, but 81 times," Benzema said. "It would be good to give me explanations. If it's for football [reasons], it's for football. If it's for something else, it's for something else. But I'd like to be told to my face, in the eyes, because I'm also told that I am considered for selection.
"My work is to be good and perform on the pitch. In that respect, the facts are there, but things are brought up that have nothing to do with the issue and are then used as justification. There comes a time when that no longer holds water.
"A bunch of things are dredged up to justify not picking me. There is no coherence between what happens to explain the situation and what happens around it. That's why I have asked for explanations from the national team coach. It can last two minutes an explanation. An explanation isn't complicated."
Ian is ESPN's French football correspondent. Twitter: @ian_holyman