At 19, France's Kylian Mbappe has been deemed the next great player of his generation, the Messi or Ronaldo for an entirely new era of fans.
"If you gave me a billion [euros], I wouldn't sell him," Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi said of Mbappe in May.
"He is part of the group of five or six top players that will soon dominate the world," Arsene Wenger, the legendary French football manager who led Arsenal for over two decades, said in June.
But Mbappe is more than the future. He's an international star right now. He's the catalyst for France, the dynamic superstar who succeeded where both Messi and Ronaldo have failed: bring home a World Cup. He may be young, but his arrival on the international stage has been nothing short of a superstar's coming-out party. When he left Monaco for PSG last August, his €145 million transfer fee was enough to make him the second-most expensive player in the world (behind Neymar Jr.). In his first season playing in Paris, Mbappe's showing was strong; he scored 21 goals and assisted on 16 more.
He carried that momentum to the World Cup, where he emerged as one of the bright young faces leading a decorated French national team. Alongside established stars like Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann, Mbappe didn't just hold his own; he showed why he's the team's best player, despite his lack of experience. (He's the youngest player by a year and a half.) He became the first teenager since Pele in 1958 to score two goals in the international tournament. (Pele congratulated him on Twitter: "Congratulations, @KMbappe. 2 goals in a World Cup so young puts you in great company! Good luck for your other games. Except against🇧🇷! 😅")
The greatness and grace he has displayed are part of why Mbappe already has 14 million-plus followers on Instagram. It's also why he is being pushed commercially as one of the next global faces of soccer: He's at the forefront of multiple Nike marketing campaigns across Europe, and he's received customized Off-White Nike soccer cleats from Louis Vuitton's artistic director Virgil Abloh. On top of it all, Mbappe has become the youngest ever celebrity to have his likeness immortalized in wax at the famous Musee Grevin in Paris.
That Mbappe has blossomed so quickly shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who's followed him since his days at Monaco. When I interviewed him last year, it was easy to see that great things lay in store: the World Cups, the Champion League titles, the Ballon d'Ors. "This is only just the beginning," Mbappe said. "[Legacy]'s something you see when you're at the end, trying to anticipate what's going to happen. There's a long way to go before I stop playing. I'm not thinking about my legacy yet."
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