Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe cemented his credentials as one of the best players in the world with a virtuoso performance against Barcelona in the Champions League round of 16 on Tuesday.
After laying dormant over winter, the competition restarted with a jolt as a Mbappe hat trick propelled PSG to an impressively dominant 4-1 first-leg away win at Camp Nou.
Everything seemed to flow through the 22-year-old as his lightning pace and flawless finishing made mincemeat of Barca’s beleaguered defence time and time again.
Indeed, the sight of Mbappe steaming away as veteran defender Gerard Pique desperately clutched a handful of his shirt quickly became the defining image of the game.
Pique against Mbappe ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/8A4E0EIrpt
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) February 16, 2021
Many even likened the young French striker’s relentless searing attacks to a certain, similarly formidable Brazilian icon (Ronaldo) in his prime — and not without good reason.
Watching Mbappe vs. Barcelona: pic.twitter.com/gC6mwlT8lA
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) February 16, 2021
As the Barca wreckage lay decimated and Lionel Messi looked on in barely concealed awe, it felt like we were witnessing a changing of the footballing guard.
So, in homage to Mbappe’s fabulous MVP extravaganza, here are a few 22 things you should know about a the man who seems destined to become one of the game’s all-time greats.
– Marcotti: Mbappe leads PSG to statement win
– ESPN Soccer Champions pick ’em: Compete for $4k of Amazon.com gift cards
– Stream ESPN FC Daily on ESPN+ (U.S. only)
1. Mbappe hails from the Parisian suburb of Bondy, roughly 11 kilometres northeast of the centre of the French capital.
He is already the town’s strongest claim to fame and their most revered son, with a red banner unfurled on the city hall that reads: “Thank you Kylian, all of the people of Bondy are with you!”
2. It’s perhaps unsurprising to learn that Mbappe hails from a prominent athletic family, with his father, Wilfried, having played football for his hometown team of AS Bondy in the 1990s.
Mbappe’s mother, Fayza Lamari, was also a successful handball player. She played for Bondy in France’s first organised handball league in the same era.
“She [Fayza] was a symbolic figure of the handball club of Bondy,” Jean-Louis Kimmoun, former club president, told Le Parisien in 2017.
Finally, Mbappe’s brother Jires Kembo-Ekoko is also a professional footballer who last played for Bursaspor in Turkey, while his younger sibling Ethan currently plays for the PSG youth academy.
3. Mbappe has claimed to idolise several players growing up, but only one adorned his bedroom wall as a kid. As revealed in a photo taken before his own rise to stardom, the young Mbappe was obsessed with Cristiano Ronaldo, with every inch of his wall plastered with images of the Real Madrid powerhouse.
However, come 2019 and Mbappe had grown out of his hero worship phase and swapped out all of his Ronaldo posters for pictures of himself.
Given that he’d already won two Ligue 1 titles and a World Cup by that point, we can hardly blame him for revelling in his success!
4. Mbappe is the youngest player to play for AS Monaco, having been just 16 years and 347 days old when he emerged from the bench to replace Fabio Coentrao for the final few minutes of a 1-1 draw against Caen in December 2015.
This broke a club record previously belonging to the legendary Thierry Henry that had stood for 21 years.
5. Two months later, Mbappe also became Monaco’s youngest-ever goal scorer when he opened his account for the Ligue 1 side in a 3-1 win over Troyes, aged 17 years and 62 days.
The previous record holder on that occasion? Henry, once again.
– Stream ESPN FC Daily on ESPN+ (U.S. only)
– ESPN+ viewer’s guide: Bundesliga, Serie A, MLS, FA Cup and more
6. Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has an infamously strong track record when it comes to almost signing some of the greatest players of the modern era.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto’o, Yaya Toure and Cristiano Ronaldo are just some of the stellar names who could have plied their trades with the Gunners, were it not for the intervention of fate.
It has emerged that Mbappe is also a member of Wenger’s “nearly men,” having come within weeks of making the move to North London in 2017.
With his time at Monaco coming to an end, he admitted that Arsenal were a “real option” as it was his “dream” to be coached by Wenger. The pair even met for a chat. Unfortunately for the Gunners, the youngster ultimately decided that he wasn’t keen to leave his family behind in France and therefore decided to sign for PSG to be closer to them.
7. Arsenal weren’t the only Premier League club to court Mbappe either, with London rivals Chelsea also missing out on the opportunity to snaffle him up in 2012 just before he went stratospheric.
As the story goes, Mbappe was handed a trial by the Blues but their academy bosses ultimately decided to advise against signing the fleet-footed striker there and then as he didn’t offer enough defensively.
A second trial was organised, and Mbappe was gifted a personalised Chelsea shirt, but any deal was nipped in the bud by the player’s mother who reportedly admonished the club, saying: “Either they sign him now, or within five years they’ll have to offer €50m to tie him down.”
In fairness, the only thing she got wrong was underestimating the prospective future transfer fee by several orders of magnitude.
8. Mbappe is the second most expensive footballer of all time after joining PSG from Monaco initially on a year-long loan in 2017, then in a deal worth €180m (€145m plus €35m in add-ons) the following summer.
However, he finds himself behind teammate Neymar, whose dizzying €222m transfer from Barcelona to PSG in the summer of 2017 remains the largest in history.
Perfect for PSG
9. After adding another three goals to his tally at the Camp Nou on Tuesday night, Mbappe is now the third-highest goal scorer in PSG’s history with 111 in just 153 games.
Only Zlatan Ibrahimovic (156 goals in 180 games) and Edinson Cavani (200 in 301) have scored more for the club.
10. Mbappe has scored 24 goals in the Champions League, putting him level with the likes of Paul Scholes, Luis Figo and Gonzalo Higuain. He’s got some way to go to catch Cristiano Ronaldo (134) and Messi (119).
But when it comes to his head-to-head record against Messi on the pitch, Mbappe has faced the Barcelona superstar only twice thus far, both in tournament knockout ties. The first was France’s 4-3 win over Argentina in the second round of the 2018 World Cup and the second was on Tuesday.
Kylian Mbappé has now played against Lionel Messi twice in his career, both in knockout games:
Barcelona 1-4 PSG
France 4-3 Argentina
He’s scored five goals ???? pic.twitter.com/gtyuejDmUg
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) February 17, 2021
11. Mbappe is only the third player to score a Champions League hat trick against Barcelona, and the first player to do so in almost quarter of a century
Faustino Asprilla of Newcastle and Andriy Shevchenko of Dynamo Kiev are the others, both doing so back in 1997.
12. Mbappe is only the second player in the history of both the Champions League and the European Cup to score two or more goals against Barcelona in an away leg of a knockout round fixture.
The other? The great Ferenc Puskas, for Real Madrid, in the 1959-60 semifinals.
2 – Kylian Mbappe is only the second player in European Cup/Champions League history to score an away brace against Barcelona in the knockout rounds, after Ferenc Puskas for Real Madrid in the 1959-60 semi-final. Stage. pic.twitter.com/PKk8YJXOmp
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 16, 2021
That’s quite some company he’s keeping.
13. Mbappe’s hat trick means that the young French striker has now scored 2.9% of all the goals Barcelona have ever conceded at Camp Nou in the Champions League.
2.9% of the goals Barcelona have ever conceded at home in the CL have been scored by Mbappe tonight
— Duncan Alexander (@oilysailor) February 16, 2021
14. Mbappe has also comprehensively proven that he’s the man to rely on when you need an important goal scored on the road in European competition.
Indeed, of all the players to have scored 20 or more goals in the Champions League, the PSG striker has notched the highest proportion (68%) in away games. That’s 15 goals at the Parc des Princes and 22 goals elsewhere.
68% – Of players with 20 or more goals in the UEFA Champions League, Kylian Mbappe has netted the highest proportion in away matches (68% – 15/22). Occasion. pic.twitter.com/ESDBa9MQCP
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 16, 2021
15. Whereas fellow prodigy Erling Haaland of FC Salzburg and now Borussia Dortmund amassed both 10 and 15 goals in the Champions League in the fastest time, Mbappe is, for the time being at least, the quickest to reach the 20-goal mark.
The PSG forward seized the record from Messi in December when he scored twice against Istanbul Basaksehir, aged 21 years and 355 days. Messi was 22 years and 267 days old when he reached the same milestone.
Fabulous for France
16. Mbappe became the first teenager since Michael Owen to score more than one goal at a World Cup finals when he netted four times for France in 2018.
The PSG star wasn’t even born when Owen scored twice for England (against Romania and Argentina) at the 1998 World Cup.
17. Mbappe’s two goals for Les Bleus against Argentina in the 2018 final also saw him become the second-youngest player ever to score twice in a World Cup match since Pele did likewise for Brazil in the 1958 final.
Mbappe was 19 years and 207 days old, whereas Pele was 17 years and 251 days.
The king will always remain king ????
— Kylian Mbappé (@KMbappe) July 16, 2018
18. Despite having just won the World Cup at the very first attempt at the tender age of 19, Mbappe still chose to donate his entire winnings to charity.
The striker was already a patron of the Premiers de Cordee charity, which reportedly received around $500,000 that the striker had accrued in wages and win bonuses.
Off the pitch
19. Aged 21 at the time, Mbappe became the youngest player to find himself emblazoned on the standard worldwide cover of a EA Sports FIFA game after being announced as the star of the FIFA 2021 last year.
The #FIFA21 Standard edition cover art ????
Pre-Order -> https://t.co/Ucbq7ap4Wu pic.twitter.com/kr3TSs0gdw
— EA SPORTS FIFA (@EASPORTSFIFA) July 22, 2020
Jack Wilshere (then 19) remains the youngest player to grace a FIFA cover, though the Arsenal prodigy was only included alongside Wayne Rooney for the UK release of FIFA 12.
20. He loves sneakers and boots. “It’s a real pleasure to me. I’m like a kid with a new toy when I get a new pair of sneakers,” he told Hypebeast. “I’ve always been a sneaker lover so it’s a pleasure to buy new pairs and mix them with my clothes to flex a little.”
His first pair of sneakers? Nike Air Maxes. His first boots? Nike Vapors.
In 2008, his parents saved up for the Mercurial Pink Panthers worn by Franck Ribery. And he wore his own version in the 2020 UCL final.
Now he’s got his own section on the Nike website as well as his own style and boot in the Nike Mercurial Superfly Mbappe Rosa.
21. Both through his football and his collaborations with Nike and Jordan, Mbappe boasts a huge presence on social media, with 47.1m followers on Instagram and 5.7m on Twitter.
That said, he’s lagging behind Neymar, who currently boasts 146.7m followers on Instagram and a whopping 52m on Twitter. And is some way off Ronaldo, who tops the world with over 500m followers across Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
22. Take this with a generous pinch of salt, but it has been claimed that Mbappe — famed for his blistering counter-attacks — is actually quicker across the ground than 100m and 200m sprinter Usain Bolt, the fastest man on the planet.
In 2019, Mbappe was clocked sprinting at 23.61 miles per hour during a Ligue 1 game against Monaco.
To put that in perspective, Bolt’s top speed during his famous world record 100m sprint at the 2009 Athletic World Championship in Berlin was “only” clocked at 23.35 mph.