Yesterday, [L'Équipe correspondent and AS contributor] Frédéric Hermel told me that the emergence of Kylian Mbappé is whipping up an outburst of expectation never witnessed on such a scale before in France. Not Thierry Henry, nor Karim Benzema, or Ben Arfa (who burst onto the scene in similar style) or even Zidane... Maybe Yoann Gourcuff, but nothing in comparison to what we are seeing with Mbappé, who has excelled in a handful of top level games, among them, two which helped Monaco to eliminate City from Europe and at the weekend he was handed his senior debut for France, playing just a few minutes in which time he had the whole stadium transfixed. An eye-watering 110 million euro offer from Manchester United and interest from Real Madrid (which Florentino hasn’t denied) completes the picture.
France pin hopes on Mbappé
For France, Mbappé will be the pearl in a new generation of young players which started with Griezmann, who is now 26, and includes talented players such as Rabiot and Dembélé right up until the appearance of Mbappé who, one year ago was completely unknown but now is a celebrity not just in France but in half of Europe too. French football fans hope that he gets to play in tomorrow’s friendly against Spain. French fans enjoyed last summer’s Euro 2016 final on home soil, but without the pride of seeing the team play the kind of football which really excites. The hope is that this new, upcoming generation will inject a new ímpetus into the national side, just like the generation of players here like Casillas, Xavi, Iniesta, Villa et al. rescued Spain from years of agony.
Mbappé, a star is born
And of course Real Madrid have him as one of their transfer targets. Mbappé is a wide-ranging striker, who has a certain joy to his game and a magic aura about him that he seems destined for a future competing with Neymar, who looks like he will inherit the throne occupied until now by Messi and Cristiano. A merchandising expert told me not so long ago that there are only three players in the world who really sell shirts in gargantuan quantities: Messi, Cristiano and Neymar. We can translate selling shirts for possessing powers of persuasion far in excess of the prominence of the clubs they represent. Gareth Bale hasn’t reached that level. But Mbappé could be the next player to do so, and perhaps the only one out of the current crop of emerging stars on the radar. At least he is on the case – he’s the player to keep an eye on...