Why 'complete' Kylian Mbappe could be a threat to Neymar's status at PSG
The set-piece psychodrama involving Edinson Cavani and Neymar had dominated the build-up to Paris Saint-Germain’s Champions League showdown with Bayern Munich, and both men were on the scoresheet – so why is everyone talking about Kylian Mbappe on Thursday morning?
- Neymar slams rift reports, but Cavani issues PSG warning
- Robben refuses to back under-fire Ancelotti
PSG’s new strike force, by contrast, is propelling them to the forefront of the continental game. ‘Europe is warned’ said the front page of L’Equipe, with the MCN attack already contributing a total of 18 goals in all competitions this season.
Following his £198m world-record transfer from Barcelona this summer, Neymar was expected to be the superstar of the PSG project and his impact has been huge. But if he wanted to escape the shadow of Lionel Messi at Barca, could he find himself obscured once again, this time by an 18-year-old?
WHY DID MBAPPE OVERSHADOW THE TWO GOALSCORERS?
This was a display of some precocity from a player who only made his Champions League debut a year ago. Mbappe has made headlines with his goalscoring since breaking into the big time during Monaco’s run to the semi-finals last season, and understandably so.
But against Bayern he showcased another side to his game which is rather less reported: his composure on the ball, almost perfect decision making and excellent link-up play. Indeed, Mbappe supplied both assists for Cavani and Neymar against Bayern.
For Cavani’s goal, he found a pocket of space on the right of the attack, protected the ball and waited for the perfect time to play in the striker, who lashed his shot into the roof of the net.
For the second, he embarrassed a player of David Alaba’s quality with a gorgeous bit of skill.
It was no surprise that Mbappe was the name on everyone’s lips…
Paris Saint-Germain's Brazilian forward Neymar, Paris Saint-Germain's Uruguayan forward Edinson Cavani, Paris Saint-Germain's French defender Presnel Kimpembe and Paris Saint-Germain's French forward Kylian MbappeGetty Images
PSG coach Unai Emery
" Kylian? He is progressing well and getting better and better. He has a lot of desire and talent, which will help the team develop. That is what we had in mind when we bought him. He is growing here and that helps the team to grow too. He put in a complete performance."
PSG owner Nasser Al-Khelaifi
" Mbappe? He really had a great game. He is well known for being a great player, even if he is young. We invested in him because we know that he is a top talent."
PSG midfielder Marco Verratti
" I think Kylian deserves all of this [praise], because he’s a very good boy, on and off the field. He works a lot. On the field, he only makes choices that are for the team, never just for him. He’s a player with a future... We’re lucky to have him here. And we want to put him in the best conditions possible to use all of his talent. Sometimes you can’t even keep up with him because he’s moving so fast. We were missing a player like him. He always makes good decisions for the team, never stupid choices."
BT Sport pundit Rio Ferdinand
" It’s too much. It’s illegal really, what he’s doing. It shouldn’t be allowed."
A CHALLENGER TO NEYMAR’S STATUS?
Paris Saint-Germain's French defender Presnel Kimpembe, Paris Saint-Germain's Uruguayan forward Edinson Cavani, Paris Saint-Germain's French forward Kylian Mbappe and Paris Saint-Germain's Brazilian forward NeymarGetty Images
We have already seen with his spat with Cavani that Neymar wants to be recognised as the top player at PSG, yet could he be overshadowed by a player seven years his junior? As a local boy, Mbappe is clearly popular with supporters and his performances are increasingly impressive.
According to Gary Lineker, Mbappe will be the next big thing in football – the successor to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo perhaps – but does that mean Neymar’s chances of winning a Ballon d’Or will be skipped over? And what impact might that have on this fragile dressing room dynamic, when Neymar came to Paris in an attempt to emerge from Messi’s shadows?
THE VIEW FROM FRANCE
Eurosport.fr’s Maxime Dupuis does not believe there will be any trouble in the short-term, as Mbappe is clever enough to respect his role in the PSG hierarchy, even if he will be the second most expensive player of all time when his loan deal is made permanent in the summer for £167m.
" Can he became the real contender for the Ballon d’Or ? Yes and no for the moment. He will obviously, but he knows - I think - that for the good of the team he has to be a lieutenant of Neymar for the moment. When 'Penaltygate' exploded two weeks ago, he said that he would not want to take penalties. Why ? It was a source of conflict, he said. Smart. At only 18."
Still, it may only be a matter of time before Mbappe is looking every bit a leading man as Neymar. Then sparks really could fly.