How Kylian Mbappe could ruin his career with a big move so early on
Despite all the big moves of the summer in the world of football – Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United, Bernardo Silva, Benjamin Mendy and Kyle Walker to Manchester City, Tiemoue Bakayoko to Chelsea, and even the rumoured move for Neymar to Paris St. Germain, one name has dominated all of the transfer talk going into 2017/18 – Monaco’s teenage forward Kylian Mbappe.
It’s hard to believe that a year ago, very few people had heard of Mbappe, let alone considered him the hottest property in world football. Sure, he’d performed well at the 2016 European Under-19 Championships for France, but even then, he wasn’t considered their standout player, rather Jean-Kevin Augustin of PSG was.
2016/17 though, saw Mbappe explode onto the scene like few others have done before him. He scored 26 goals in 44 appearances for Monaco in all competitions, but he wasn’t only scoring them against the minnows of Ligue 1.
Mbappe hit six goals in nine Champions League appearances as Monaco were the surprise package of the tournament, including key strikes against Manchester City, Borussia Dortmund and Juventus.
It comes as no surprise, then, that the giants of Europe are now circling around the 18-year-old. He’s already been linked with moves to Real Madrid, Barcelona, Paris St. Germain, Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea, and currently, the word is that he’s indeed decided to move on from Monaco.
In a way, it seems to make sense. Monaco’s Ligue 1 winning side has now been decimated by said giants – they’ve already lost key players Silva, Mendy and Bakayoko, and it looks like Thomas Lemar is likely to follow them out of the door too.
But is a move away from Monaco really the right move for Mbappe at the minute? I’m leaning towards no myself.
Sure, it could turn out to be the best thing he could do; Mbappe could turn out to be a once-in-a-lifetime talent like Cristiano Ronaldo or Luis Suarez, and he could become a monstrous success at one of Europe’s biggest clubs. But at 18, why try to rush a move like that? After all, Mbappe has realistically, only had one great season.
Nobody’s trying to suggest he could be a one-season wonder; his performances in the Champions League suggest that he’s very much for real as far as talent is concerned. But other equally talented players have come a cropper when moving to a bigger club early in their career, particularly when it comes to moving for a huge transfer fee. We saw perhaps the greatest example of this just last summer with Renato Sanches.
Portugal weren’t overly impressive in winning the 2016 European Championships – even Cristiano Ronaldo was firing blanks for the first couple of phases of the tournament – but one man who stood out was Renato Sanches, then of Benfica. The then-18-year-old stood out with some tremendous performances – he was man-of-the-match in the second round clash with Croatia, and he stood out again and scored in the following round against Poland. Compared by many to the likes of Clarence Seedorf, it seemed that the world was at Sanches’s feet.
Realistically though, he hadn’t proved himself all that much – one standout season with Benfica and one tournament with Portugal were all he had to his name – and when Bayern Munich parted with somewhere around £31m for him, it was still a bit of a risk. And it turned out to be one that didn’t pay off, as Sanches struggled to settle in Germany and looked a shadow of the player he’d been at the Euros.
Just four league starts, 25 appearances overall, and no goals or assists later, and it appears that he’s on his way out of Bayern with his tail between his legs.
Can you really blame such a young player for failing, though? After all, he’d moved to a foreign country, for a huge transfer fee, after just one standout season, all while still 18 years old. Sound familiar?
It’s that kind of risk that Mbappe takes if he does decide to leave Monaco, and of course, it’s the risk that any buying club would be taking too – Mbappe’s current price tag is apparently somewhere around £160m, which would absolutely smash the 'current' world transfer record of £89m held by Paul Pogba.
Is there any evidence to suggest Mbappe should stay at Monaco, at least for another season? I’d say yes.
Firstly, look at the ages of other great players when they moved to their first bigger club. Cristiano Ronaldo, for example, was 18 when he moved to Manchester United, but he took time to settle in and obviously wasn’t a marquee signing at the time, as he was when he moved to Real Madrid at the age of 24.
Neymar? He was 21 when he moved to Barcelona and he’d also completed four outstanding seasons in his home country of Brazil with Santos. Luis Suarez was well-travelled by the time he arrived at Barca at the age of 27, Gareth Bale didn’t arrive at Real Madrid until he was 24 with plenty of experience under his belt, and even Pogba had completed four seasons at the top level with Juventus before his record-breaking move.
Perhaps the best comparison is Wayne Rooney. Rooney exploded onto the scene at Everton in the 2002/03 season, memorably scoring his now-legendary goal against Arsenal in October 2002, when he was then hailed as the best English talent in a generation by Arsene Wenger.
That season saw him play 37 games with 8 goals in all competitions, and he also broke into the England first team, starring in their April 2003 victory over Turkey.
It was clear at that stage that Rooney had the world at his feet, and the summer of 2003 saw him linked with plenty of big clubs, including Manchester United. But rather than move at the age of just 17 after one breakthrough season, Rooney chose to stay at Everton, where he not only established himself as their key player, but England’s key man too.
After an astonishing Euro 2004 campaign, Rooney finally made his move to Manchester, for a then-record fee for a player under 20 of £25.6m.
Of course, the rest is history. Rooney went on to play thirteen successful seasons at United, becoming their all-time top goalscorer in the process, and nobody would understate the impact he had at Old Trafford. Would he have been as much of a success had he moved a year earlier, with just one year of top level experience to his name? I’d suspect the answer would probably be no.
So what of Mbappe?
Move now and he may get more money, sell more shirts and become a bigger star at the time of the transfer, but it’d be all too easy for him to become lost in the shuffle at a huge superclub – particularly if he were to decide to move abroad (and that seems likely with PSG apparently signing Neymar) which always makes it harder for a young player to settle. Perhaps he’s already at the best place for his development – Monaco, the club that have nurtured his amazing talents so far.
He’s faced with a choice, basically – take a risk and make the move, or wait, even one more season, until he’s entirely sure of his place in the game. The next Renato Sanches, or the next Neymar or Rooney? It’s up to Mbappe to decide.