Moscow :Minutes after spearheading France’s 4-3 win against Argentina at the Kazan Arena here, Kylian Mbappe was asked about being the second teenager after Pele to score more than one goal in a knockout match at the World Cup.
“It’s flattering to be the second one after Pele but let’s put things in context: Pele is another category,” he said.
The second question at the post-match press conference was about him being born in the same year as France’s World Cup triumph in 1998. Was he the second trophy of the year for the country? Mbappe laughed. “Well, people remember the World Cup victory more than the year I was born in. It’s normal,” he said.
The World Cup is a bigger stage but Mbappe is used to being the cynosure. During his breakout season with Monaco, Mbappe scored in both legs as his side knocked Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City out of the Champions League in the Round of 16.
He has been deemed French football’s golden boy since, also going on to win the ‘Golden Boy’ award itself in 2017.
After the move to Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), Mbappe, 19, has faced the kind of pressure that many older players would find hard to handle. Mbappe not only survived, he has thrived.
Did Mbappe the boy finally pass the baton to Mbappe the man on Saturday? Argentina’s chief tormentor not only overcame the rough treatment meted out by a panic-stricken backline but also scored the third and fourth goals.
“There is no better place than a World Cup,” Mbappe said when asked if he needed a performance like that to establish himself as one of the world’s top players.
Word about the precocious Paris-born forward had spread early. At the Clairefontaine academy, Mbappe had attracted the interest of some of Europe’s biggest clubs.
When he was 11, Mbappe went as a trialist to Chelsea and played against Charlton Athletic’s juniors. The move fell through as Mbappe decided against going abroad.
Rumour has it that Real Madrid also tried to sign Mbappe before he joined Monaco whom he would help win the 2016-17 Ligue 1 title.