Mbappe’s time has ar­rived

Ney­mar looks on as 19-year-old en­joys team­mates’ adu­la­tion

Sunday Times - - Sport International -

● Kylian Mbappe’s in­ex­orable rise as one of world foot­ball’s big­gest stars has been nicely summed up by his ap­pear­ance on the cover of Time magazine.

The 19-year-old hav­ing his im­age on the front of the iconic pub­li­ca­tion as one of it’s “Next Gen­er­a­tion Lead­ers” for 2018 is the lat­est ex­am­ple of his star eclips­ing that of Paris Saint-Ger­main team­mate Ney­mar.

The France in­ter­na­tional won the World Cup with Les Bleus this sum­mer and has been re­ceived ju­bi­lantly in his home coun­try since re­turn­ing to do­mes­tic ac­tion.

Mean­while, Ney­mar has been work­ing hard to bol­ster his wan­ing po­si­tion among the game’s elite. Since mak­ing his worl­drecord move from Barcelona in 2017, the Brazil for­ward has failed to live up to his à222m price tag. His de­but sea­son in France was cut short by in­jury, and he failed to shine in Rus­sia as Brazil were elim­i­nated in the quar­ter­fi­nals by Bel­gium.

The 26-year-old had at one time con­sol­i­dated his po­si­tion as heir in wait­ing to Cris­tiano Ron­aldo and Lionel Messi as the world’s next player to claim the big in­di­vid­ual awards.

Fifa men’s player

But his fall from that po­si­tion was il­lus­trated when he was not even on the 10-man short­list for the best Fifa men’s player award, won by Luka Mo­dric.

Mbappe scored four goals in 13 sec­ond­half min­utes against Lyon in Ligue 1 last Sun­day, which over­shad­owed Ney­mar’s un­selfish per­for­mance at Parc des Princes, and was en­cap­su­lated by that vi­ral pic­ture of PSG’s No 10 look­ing on as the No 7 en­joyed his team­mates’ adu­la­tion.

Back in 2013 Ney­mar fea­tured on the cover of Time and was billed as “The Next Pele.” Though he has en­joyed his fair share of praise from the Brazil leg­end, Mbappe is the one who has been en­joy­ing more of late af­ter be­com­ing the youngest player to score in the World Cup fi­nal since Pele did so in 1958.

Ney­mar left Barcelona to es­cape from Lionel Messi’s shadow and though clearly key to coach Thomas Tuchel’s PSG plans. Mbappe him­self re­cently told beIN Sports that PSG have cho­sen the South Amer­i­can as their “leader” and the French­man’s stock has never been higher.

Speak­ing with Time, Mbappe dis­cussed:

● His me­te­oric rise: “My life has been to­tally turned up­side down.”

● World Cup suc­cess: “We re­alised we left a mark on his­tory.”

● Giv­ing France ap­pear­ance fees to char­ity: “[It] does not change my life, but changes theirs.”

● His home­town of Bondy: “A city that breathes foot­ball.”

● And his fam­ily: “My mom has al­ways told me that to be­come a great foot­ball player, you must be be­fore all a great man.”

Could Mbappe’s star rise fur­ther at Ney­mar’s ex­pense with a Bal­lon d’Or win to cap an in­cred­i­ble 2018 for the teenager and a largely for­get­table one for his team­mate?

Mbappe was again in the head­lines later this week as he in­spired a fight­back from France as they ral­lied from two goals down at home to earn a 2-2 draw against Ice­land in an in­ter­na­tional friendly on Thurs­day.

Mbappe, brought on as a sub­sti­tute for the fi­nal half-hour, gave France a life­line when his shot was saved and then in­ad­ver­tently turned in by Ice­land de­fender Hol­mar Orn Eyjolf­s­son.

The Paris Saint-Ger­main for­ward lev­elled from the penalty spot in the 90th minute af­ter Kol­beinn Sigth­ors­son han­dled at a corner. — and AFP

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