Why Monaco starlet Kylian Mbappe is similar to Thierry Henry
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger caused a stir when he revealed he has been tracking 18-year-old Monaco striker Kylian Mbappe, and that the player rejected a move to the Emirates this summer. But the most notable thing Wenger said was in the comparison he made to Gunners legend Thierry Henry.
"It's true he has similar qualities," he told The Ligue 1 show. "He could be another Thierry Henry."
Wenger is well-placed to know, having given Henry his debut as a 17-year-old while the pair were at Monaco in 1994 before transforming the striker from an inconsistent winger into a goal-scoring machine when they were reunited at Arsenal.
Mbappe has scored three goals and laid on five assists in 14 Ligue 1 games for Monaco this season and has attracted the attention of Europe's top clubs. Henry just so happens to be one of his boyhood heroes, so how similar are they?
They have Paris roots
Both Henry and Mbappe might have burst to prominence at the opposite end of France, but their origins are to be found in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. While Henry was born in Les Ulis in the suburbs of the French capital, Mbappe came into the world in Paris itself, playing his first games at AS Bondy whom he joined aged six and where his father, Wilfried, was a coach.
They come from a sporting family
Henry's brother Wily played in goal for Les Ulis junior and senior teams, but now works on the Metro, while his father Antoine was a massive football fan and attended all the young Thierry's matches.
"I was so determined he should get the best chance I lost a job over it," he told the Guardian. "I missed the start of a shift as a security guard after driving Thierry to a game and was fired when I turned up two hours late."
Mbappe's father is not the only one to have passed on his sporting passion and genes. His mother is a former professional handball player, while his half-brother, Jires Kembo-Ekoko, attended the prestigious academy at Clairefontaine, played Ligue 1 football for Rennes and is now in Dubai.
The striker spent time at Clairefontaine himself but talked over the move to Monaco in 2013 with his family. "We had, as usual, taken time to think it over as a family," Kembo-Ekoko told France Football. "It just felt good with Monaco."
They both started early
Mbappe was thrown in at the deep end even earlier than Henry was, making his Ligue 1 debut aged 16 years and 11 months when he replaced Fabio Coentrao during Monaco's Ligue 1 game at home to Caen on Dec. 2, 2015.
"Kylian has great potential but still has a lot of work to do before reaching the top level," coach Leonardo Jardim warned, using the stick before producing the carrot.
"I have always thought that talent shouldn't wait a number of years."
With his goal against Troyes in February 2016, he erased Henry's name from the Monaco history books by becoming the club's youngest-ever top flight scorer at 17 years and 62 days.
They are both entertainers
Monaco have been Ligue 1's most exciting side this season, scoring a breathtaking 65 goals in 22 games so far -- 23 more than champions Paris Saint-Germain have managed in the same number of matches.
Though Mbappe has been in the shadow of Radamel Falcao, who has made a prodigious return to the Principality after his Premier League woes with Chelsea and Manchester United, the youngster has still managed three Ligue 1 goals in just six starts this season.
However, his directness and willingness to take on opponents means he lifts fans off their seats even when he is not hitting the back of the net -- something Henry wrote the book on.
"I would just advise him to keep the love he has for football," Kembo-Ekoko told France Football. "He's a player who puts on a show, who brings a smile to people's faces while also being effective. That's what football nowadays is lacking a little bit."
They are students of the game
Like Henry, whose passion for watching football has not been diminished by his retirement, Mbappe is an addict of the beautiful game.
"He's more than passionate, he's a madman," his father told France Football. "I work in the field, but he sometimes manages to make me sick of it as he's on about it 24/7. He watches everything. He has always wanted to copy his idols ... He can watch four or five games in a row."
The one place they may differ is over who the best player in the world is right now. Henry would pick his former Barcelona teammate Lionel Messi; Mbappe idolises Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo.
"He's really been his idol for several years now," his father revealed.
Ian is ESPN's French football correspondent. Twitter: @ian_holyman