Mbappe places him­self firmly in Bal­lon d’Or mix

But French star still rates Messi, Ron­aldo the best

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS -

PARIS — Teenage sen­sa­tion Kylian Mbappe said on Thurs­day that Li­onel Messi and Cris­tiano Ron­aldo re­main soc­cer’s great­est play­ers, but that his own World Cup hero­ics could help crown him the 2018 Bal­lon d’Or win­ner.

Mbappe, 19, in­spired France to World Cup vic­tory in Rus­sia this sum­mer, scor­ing four goals.

One of those came in the 4-2 fi­nal vic­tory over Croa­tia as he be­came just the sec­ond teenager af­ter Pele in 1958 to score in the cham­pi­onship match.

He was also voted Young Player of the tour­na­ment and has since be­come Ligue 1’s lead­ing scorer with 11 goals as Paris Saint-Ger­main runs away with the French ti­tle.

Messi and Ron­aldo have won the past 10 Bal­lon d’Or awards and Mbappe be­lieves they are still the sport’s top A-lis­ters.

“No­body is do­ing bet­ter at the mo­ment and we can’t say it’s the end of their era be­cause it will only end when some­body else does bet­ter,” Mbappe said on Thurs­day.

“But I don’t think ei­ther one of them will win the Bal­lon d’Or this year be­cause it was a World Cup year, and the World Cup takes prece­dence.”

While Mbappe thrived at the World Cup, Messi’s Ar­gentina and Ron­aldo’s Por­tu­gal bowed out in the last 16.

“But if you take the player in the purest form, there’s no­body bet­ter yet. This year they were again the best two,” added Mbappe.

“Messi fin­ished the best scorer in Eu­rope; Ron­aldo was the top scorer in the Cham­pi­ons League.”

Mbappe was speak­ing at an event or­ga­nized by watch­mak­ers Hublot, one of his spon­sors.

The last French player to win the cov­eted Bal­lon d’Or was Zine­dine Zi­dane af­ter the na­tional team’s 1998 World Cup vic­tory.

“Frankly, I hope to win the Bal­lon d’Or. We achieved some­thing big. It would not be un­just be­cause that is a strong word, but it would be a shame if a French­man does not win it.

“We made his­tory and it would be nice to be re­warded.”

Croa­tia’s Luka Mo­dric, voted Best Player at the World Cup, is the fa­vorite for the Bal­lon d’Or. But Mo­dric is 14 years Mbappe’s se­nior, so the young French­man has time on his side.

He will also have time and op­por­tu­nity to com­plete his jour­ney from the tough streets of the Paris sub­urb of Bondy to a life of wealth and fame.

‘Play to win’

Mbappe, who will turn 20 just be­fore Christ­mas, signed for PSG from Monaco for $205 mil­lion in 2017 in the sec­ond most ex­pen­sive trans­fer of all time — be­hind PSG team­mate Ney­mar, who cost the French cham­pion $264 mil­lion.

Off the field, he seems des­tined to match Ron­aldo in the com­mer­cial stakes.

Will his ini­tials “KM” match the brand power of Ron­aldo’s “CR7”?

“I don’t know be­cause CR7 is some­thing big, he has man­aged to build his brand and be­come in­ter­na­tional,” said Mbappe. “Mine is not at this stage yet, but I’m chang­ing lit­tle by lit­tle.”

That de­vel­op­ment into the pub­lic con­scious­ness saw him dom­i­nate the front page of Time in Oc­to­ber with the Amer­i­can mag­a­zine breath­lessly herald­ing the teenager as “the fu­ture of soc­cer”.

Mbappe said he will not be sat­is­fied with win­ning just one World Cup.

When asked what he wants to win next, he said: “All the World Cups that I can play.

“I play to win; if I play four World Cups then I want to win four. We go step by step.

“I have al­ready won one. You have to pre­pare and win with your club and with the na­tional team also.

“There are short-term goals be­fore think­ing about the 2022 World Cup. But the aim al­ways is to win.”

On be­ing tipped to be the next true su­per­star once Messi and Ron­aldo have re­tired, Mpabbe added: “I can­not con­trol ev­ery­thing that is done and said.

“There is not just the pitch, but ev­ery­thing around it must also be man­aged.

“It’s not easy, but I’m learn­ing. I have peo­ple around me who help me over­come the chal­lenges one af­ter the other.”

ALESSAN­DRO BIANCHI / REUTERS

Kylian Mbappe makes a face dur­ing Paris St Ger­main's Cham­pi­ons League Group C 1-1 draw against Napoli at Sta­dio San Paolo in Naples on Tues­day.

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