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Kylian Mbappé: On The Verge of Greatness

 

It would seem that Kylian Mbappé has the footballing world at his feet. Having only just turned 22 last month, he’s already broken a vast range of records but there is still a feeling he could have achieved more than he has. Senior French data editor Damien Shernetsky assesses his career to date.

By: Damien Shernetsky

Kylian Mbappé was just 16 when he made his Ligue 1 debut in December 2015 as an 88th minute substitute for Fabio Coentrao during Monaco’s 1-1 home draw with Caen. Back then, known as Mbappé Lottin, he lost the second part of his name as quickly as he became a regular in Monaco’s starting XI.

Since then, there are countless records that Mbappé has broken – or even blown apart. The speed at which he imposed himself on the world football landscape is equalled only by his acceleration on the pitch. His goal in France’s 4-2 win over Croatia in the 2018 FIFA World Cup final saw him become the second-youngest goalscorer in a final match at just 19 years and 207 days old, behind only the legendary Pele (17 years, 249 days).

 

 

Another record that he holds at the biggest club stage, is the most goals by a player in the UEFA Champions League before turning 22. He’s scored 21 goals in the premiere European club competition so far in his career – an astonishing return in just 40 appearances for any player, let alone one so young.

 

 

Just ahead of Lionel Messi in the Champions League scoring charts by players aged 21 or younger, Mbappé’s style is similar to the world class Argentine in some ways. While he has always benefited from some very talented teammates, the young Frenchman is distinguished first and foremost by his ability to create chances for himself. Since his first full season in 2016-17, he has scored far more goals from ball carries than any other player in Ligue 1; an incredible 14 more than the next best in the competition.

 

 

Mbappé is often mentioned in the same breath as both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo but looking at the data it has to be said that the young Frenchman has a head start on those two greats. With 91 top-flight league goals secured before turning 22 at the end of December 2020, the PSG striker has scored nearly twice as many that Messi did and almost three times the tally of Ronaldo at the same age.

 

Top Flight League Goals Before Turning 22

PlayerGames Minutes PlayedGoals ScoredMin/Goal
Kylian Mbappé12885369194
Lionel Messi109751254139
Cristiano Ronaldo144936136260

 

 

No longer considered a ‘youngster’, he can’t be labelled as the future any longer – he’s the present. With 19 goals in 21 games in 2020, he managed a decent return despite injuries and the unwelcome Covid-19 interruption. But with so much promise as a teenager, can his uncompromising personality be satisfied with that?

Mbappé’s first full league campaign as a professional footballer in 2016-17 saw him register an incredible goals-xG differential of 8.1 from non-penalty shots, scoring more than twice as many goals as expected.

 

 

Impressively, he already has the very near same xG total from non-penalty shots this term in Ligue 1 as he did in his first full season in 2016-17 from much fewer minutes, but less impressive his how many fewer goals he’s scored from the same quality of chances – eight compared to 15.

 

Mbappé’s First Full Ligue 1 Season vs Current Season

Season2016-172020-21
Games Played2914
Minutes Played1500908
Goals1512
xG Total6.869.87
Shots/903.14.3
Shooting Accuracy %78%65%
Dribbles/904.28.9
Dribble Success %46%43%

 

The comparison between his first season as a regular player and the current season in Ligue 1 shows a player who now attempts more shots and twice as many dribbles but one who is less efficient with those dribbles than what he was able to do as a teenager. However, thanks to 12 goals in 14 games, he still leads the Ligue 1 goal charts in 2020-21 and only three players have scored more often across the top five European leagues. That’s the paradox with the Frenchman – he displays incredible statistics but leaves the feeling he can still do even better. Kylian Mbappé has only just turned 22 and nobody knows his limits to what he can go on to achieve.


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