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The $100 million 18-year-old: Why every team in Europe wants Kylian Mbappe

If you’re at all plugged into the world of soccer right now, the name Kylian Mbappe has become completely unavoidable.

Every day new headlines emerge about where Mbappe may be off to, how much he’ll be worth, and what team he may or may not have been a fan of as a kid.

The hype around Mbappe has reached almost unprecedented levels, and that’s saying a lot in the world of European soccer, where kids are tracked and analyzed as professionals from their early teen years.

Mbappe was born to a Cameroonian father and an Algerian mother in Bondy, a suburb in Northeastern Paris.

His father Wilfried coached him as a youth for AS Bondy, but Kylian’s performances at the infamous Clairefontaine academy (which has produced French national team players like Thierry Henry, Nicolas Anelka, Blaise Matuidi, and Hatem Ben Arfa) got the young forward noticed by some of the biggest clubs around Europe.

Real Madrid, along with most major French clubs, tried to sign Mbappe, but he chose to develop himself at AS Monaco.

Kylian Mbappe debuted for the principality club on December 2, 2015 at 16 years 347 days, becoming the youngest ever player to appear for the club, beating out the previous record-holder Thierry Henry (who comes up a lot when talking about Mbappe).

The goals came quickly for Mbappe. Lined up alongside young, dynamic, and direct players in Portuguese-Venezuelan manager Leonardo Jardim’s system, Monaco have become one of the most exciting young teams to watch in all of Europe.

Spearheaded by players like Radamel Falcao, Bernardo Silva (22), Thomas Lemar (21) in attack with Tiemoue Bakayoko (22) and Fabinho (23) anchoring the midfield, Monaco have scored a fucking ridiculous 95 goals this season and sit comfortably atop the Ligue 1 table ahead of mega-rich PSG who have won the league four straight years.

Besides Falcao, who is a veteran of top flight European soccer but fresh off disapointing spells with Manchester United and Chelsea, the entire Monaco squad is made up of some of the most exciting young prospects in the game. Fabinho and Bernardo Silva  have been linked to Manchester United, Lemar and Bakayoko to Chelsea.

Monaco’s fullbacks Djibril Sidibe and Benjamin Mendy are likely to go to European powerhouses this summer as well.

No matter how much amazing young talent is on this squad, Mbappe is the cream of the crop. At 18 years old, Mbappe has scored 24 goals in 38 appearances across all competitions for Monaco and it doesn’t even matter who he’s playing against.

It’s perhaps fair to look at France’s Ligue 1 and conclude that Mbappe isn’t performing against the best competition in the world, but he scored two goals against Manchester City over two games in the Champions League round of 16 and then three goals over two games in the quarter finals against Dortmund.

Leading up to a semifinal matchup with Italian giants Juventus, Mbappe is poised to officially announce himself on the greatest stage as one of the best strikers in the game… at 18 years old.

So then what does the future hold for the young Frenchman? He has been linked with a move to Real Madrid, Manchester City, Barcelona, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Inter Milan, Arsenal, and Manchester United. The price? Rumored to be over $140 million for his services.

That would make Mbappe the most expensive soccer player in the world at just 18 years of age, blowing Paul Pogba’s alleged $123 million fee out of the water.

A look Mbappe’s highlight tape shows why he’s such a hot commodity. His blistering pace lets him speed past defenders with ridiculous ease and he simply does not stop moving. He’s not just a runner as his nose for goal and finishing ability mean that once he’s past you he will punish you for it.

Mbappe is a true striker by every measure, able to play in the middle of the park with anyone, but he has a special knack for navigating the channels on the wings, using his movement to find the spaces in between the defenders and breezing through on goal.

This style reminds some of another great French striker who played for Monaco, a certain Thierry Henry. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger didn’t hesitate in making the comparison in February,

“Mbappe is not exactly Thierry Henry, but it’s true he has similar qualities. We follow him, we know him very well, he’s developing well. I think he extended his contract last season with Monaco so it’s Monaco who will decide about his future. He could be another Thierry Henry… He’s a guy who’s electric like Thierry was, can dribble, can pass people and is efficient. The talent is similar. After that, does he have the same level of motivation, desire and intelligence that Thierry had? The next two years will tell us that, but the first signs are very promising.”

High praise from Le Professeur indeed. While Wenger’s reputation has taken a bit of a hit recently with his club’s loss in form, he is still a highly revered figure in France. Diego Costa, Chelsea’s enigmatic but prolific striker, said of Mbappe,”if he continues to progress at this rate, he’ll be a phenomenon. He’s a killer in front of goal.”

And Kylian’s own teammate Fabinho sees only great things in Mbappe’s future, “sooner or later he will end up at Madrid, Barcelona or a club like that. But for now he’s here, so lets enjoy that!”

To go from a professional debut in December of 2015 at 16 years old, to being the second youngest ever to receive a call up from the French national team, to leading his team into the semifinals of the Champions League and the top of Ligue 1 well before his twentieth birthday makes Mbappe truly one of the most exciting young players in recent history. We’re starting to run out of superlatives for the striker.

For his second goal against Dortmund (4:36 in video above) he preys on a mistake by the Dortmund backline, sprints past Sokratis (a highly experienced Greek international) and fires an absolutely unstoppable shot past Roman Burki in goal. That is the finish of a man with all the confidence and poise in the world, a finish of a, well, not a damn EIGHTEEN-YEAR-OLD.

For his part Kylian had stayed humble. He apparently lives at the Monaco training ground like most of the other youth players, is absolutely obsessed with soccer, and said of a potential move to Real Madrid, “we all must take things step by step. Madrid is for players at the peak of their careers, and I am not there yet.”

Sounds like a kid that has the absolute killer attitude to become one of the great players in world soccer. All signs point to that being the case and Mbappe garnering the highest price-tag of any player ever. Apparently he’s reading Michael Jordan’s autobiography, before it’s all said and done he may just be the MJ of soccer.

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