Kylian Mbappe driven by Didier Deschamps and desire to get better
Comparisons are probably made too frequently in football. They are easy, after all: The Mohamed Salah of last season and the one of this season is one example; the win rates of Jose Mourinho and Alex Ferguson at Manchester United is another.
Stats are measured against other stats, records against records, regardless of context, situation, time and era. Comparing one thing or person against another thing or person appears to be the go-to way of defining greatness or otherwise.
As such, when Kylian Mbappe scored four goals in 13 minutes on Sunday for Paris Saint-Germain against Lyon at the Parc des Princes, not only was it one of the greatest individual performances in any league over recent years, but it also led to an avalanche of comparisons.
You would have learned that the 19-year-old is way ahead, in terms of goals, than Lionel Messi at the same age. "Kyky," as his France teammate Paul Pogba calls Mbappe, has scored 67 times in all competitions for club and country since making his debut for Monaco when he was 16. Messi, by contrast, had 20 at the same age. Messi had one hat trick, whereas Mbappe has two coups du chapeau and a four-goal game.
No other player has been so great so young in terms of pure statistics (without taking into consideration other factors such as the level of the league in which he plays and PSG's dominance), but we should stop comparing him to Messi, Thierry Henry, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ronaldo Nazario, Pele or anyone else. Instead, we should simply enjoy the development of an incredible talent because the most important thing is to let Mbappe continue his incredible progress and see how far he can go.
On Monday, when he joined the rest of the France squad at their Clairefontaine training camp, Mbappe was congratulated by Didier Deschamps for his quadruple. The French head coach watched the PSG-Lyon game on TV with his staff and could hardly believe what he was seeing. Despite following "KMB" since he was 15 at Monaco, Deschamps was nonetheless amazed by what he saw.
"He is doing things that are out of the ordinary," Deschamps said later on Monday. "What he is capable of doing despite being so young... He is out of this world. It's Kylian. It's prodigious what he does and what he is capable of doing. I am privileged that he is French."
France meet Iceland in a friendly on Thursday in Guingamp, then host Germany in the UEFA Nations League next Tuesday in Paris, and it is interesting to look at Mbappe's mindset for the national team. Despite his domestic brilliance and the good relationship he enjoys with the Brazilian forward, he feels that PSG remain Neymar's team.
However, when it comes to France, Mbappe is in a more dominant position and feels like the most important player for Les Bleus. At training on Monday, he was the superstar who all the fans wanted, with Pogba a close second.
Mbappe plays in a different tactical system for France (4-4-2) than for PSG (4-2-3-1), although he has a lot of freedom in both formations, and Deschamps' approach is different than a club manager. The pair text each other outside international breaks and have regular one-on-one chats when they are together with France.
Deschamps pushes Mbappe and criticises when needed. At the World Cup, he told off the teenager in front of the whole squad after a poor display against Australia in the first game of the competition. When they spoke on Monday, Deschamps told Mbappe that, prior to his quadruple against Lyon, he missed three one-on-ones with Anthony Lopes, the OL goalkeeper.
The French boss has been a key figure in Mbappe's career -- more so than PSG managers Unai Emery and Thomas Tuchel -- and he wants even more from him. On the other hand, Mbappe feels that he owes Deschamps a lot and, whether with PSG or France, it is impressive how much he wants to.
He seems to reach a new level with each passing month and the sky is the limit for Mbappe, but we knew that anyway.