Why Mbappé is the best so far

EThere is this very special category of super superstars on the World Cup football stage. Players who, especially during the Qatar days, are moving a little further above the spheres in which their teammates are flying. Because the audience here is even more focused on individual players than in previous tournaments, you can tell from the reactions of the people in the stadium and from the conversations in the cafés. Players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Neymar or Kylian Mbappe make the audience scream even with very earthly everyday actions. However, when it comes to the question of who will be the defining figure of this tournament, there are probably only two serious candidates left.

Because Neymar missed almost the entire preliminary round and the decrepit Ronaldo has only scored one penalty goal so far, stay messi and Mbappé, who after his two goals in the 3-1 round of 16 against Poland has already scored five tournament goals. So far in this millennium, six goals have always been enough to become the top scorer, so the 23-year-old Frenchman has the best chance of winning the “Golden Shoe” for the most successful scorer.

But that’s not what he’s about, Mbappé assured on Sunday evening. “The only goal for me is to win the World Cup. That’s the only dream I have. ”If France make it to the final or even become world champions, it is almost impossible to prevent Mbappé from being honored personally. For one simple reason: he’s the best.

“He can change a game in one moment”

Messi-cult supporters may disagree, but the now 35-year-old Argentine has passed his prime while Mbappé has matured and is at the peak of his creativity so far. With a very simple gameplay at first glance. “We know that if we put him in a good position, he will do the rest,” said defender Raphaël Varane during the preliminary round. Mbappé prepared the 1-0 against Poland Oliver Giroud forward, he scored the other two goals himself, and has long been leading the scorer list with seven points.

“He can change a game from one moment to the next,” said the coach Didier Deschamps after winning the round of 16, which will be followed by a duel with the English in the next round. “France needed a great Mbappé and they got one.”

While the coach also noted that he “didn’t play his best game,” his efficiency was incredible. Mbappé himself said: “We managed to score the goals in the important moments.” He actually appeared at the press conference, where the player named “Player of the Match” has to appear according to FIFA regulations. After the first game, Mbappé stayed away from this date. He has also yet to appear on the podium at training camp, where two players answer questions most days.

“It’s not meant personally, I have nothing against journalists,” he said now: “I had to concentrate on the games, that’s why I haven’t come to the press talks until now.”

Three sporting questions

Perhaps his public reluctance also has to do with the fact that he fears questions about his connections to Qatar turn. After all, he plays for the club Paris Saint-Germain, which is fed with money from the emirate. His salary of allegedly 250 million euros for three years will be paid indirectly by the Qataris, and he also used it to pay the bill that FIFA sent to the French association because Mbappé had previously not wanted to speak.

His appearance on Sunday was limited to three questions, which remained sporty. “This is the competition of my dreams,” said the Frenchman, who has been looking forward to this tournament for months: “I’ve been preparing for this all season, both physically and mentally. But we are still a long way from our ultimate goal: to win the World Cup.”

These weren’t particularly substantive statements, but since they were the only words Mbappé has spoken publicly in Qatar so far, they did have some relevance. However, Deschamps made it clear what he is really about: “Kylian speaks on the football field.” He does it without frills and with an almost stunning clarity. Mbappé is not a dribbler of the classic type, his “signature move” is less based on creativity and elegance: he puts the ball past his opponents and is then simply faster.

Only at second glance does one see what a fascinating sense of space and time is behind his actions, which he often completes with a no less fascinating shooting technique. She’s done a lot to help the French go from being a preliminary-round-eliminator to a major title favourite.

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