Lionel Messi, 33 years old, has already taken his place at the top of soccer and is still playing at the highest level, despite a handful of people who like debating whether he is or he is not the best player in the world. The Argentinian has a lot of strengths to prove that he’s the king of his sport and one of the best ever, along with Pelé, Di Stéfano, Cruyff and Maradona. He hasn’t won the World Cup, that’s true. Nevertheless, Messi is an example of regularity and, since 2004, he’s demonstrated weekly his skills by providing crucial goal passes to his teammates and scoring an amazing sum of goals himself.
As Messi faces the decline of the aging curve, everyone wonders who his successor might be. If we look for a quick answer for that question, the name of an extraordinary young player stands out, Kylian Mbappe. The former player of Paris Saint Germain and the French National team, at 21 years old, has similar stats to Messi’s in his rookie period, what may lead us to assume his development might follow that of Messi’s.
So, let’s take a look at the numbers of both players: a young 17 years old Messi made his debut in Barcelona in 2004 against Espanyol. During his first season, he played 9 games and scored just one goal. In the next season, Messi played 25 games and scored 8 goals and in his third season he became the player we all got used to: 36 games and 17 goals. Mbappe had a similar starting point in the 2015-2016 season: at 16 years old, he started in the first team of Monaco in a game against SM Caen; he completed that year in 14 games and only scored one goal. The following year he became a brilliant star, with 44 games and 26 goals. But there is more: in his 2018-2019 season, he played 43 games and scored 39 goals and in the current season he’s played 34 games and has scored 30 goals so far. What’s most impressive of Mbappe’s career is that he is just 21 years old and though he can still be considered a rookie, he already has incredible stats and titles.
As shown, Messi and Mbappe had comparable developments in their rookie times, showing similar and fantastic skills to become true stars of this game and help their teams to win several titles. Both have had the same professional environment to develop their trade: Barcelona and PSG are very competitive teams that have millions and millions of euros to buy the best players in the world. Also, in different moments, Messi and Mbappe shared the locker room with Dani Alves and Neymar. In addition, they have both been teammates of Angel Di María, Messi in the Argentinian national team and Mbappe in PSG, and nowadays both are teammates of Antoine Griezmann, in Barcelona and France, respectively.
In his 16 years as a professional soccer player, Messi has played more than 800 games, scored more than 700 goals and won an enormous amount of titles: 10 Spanish Leagues, 8 Spanish Super Cups, 6 Copas del Rey, 4 Champions League, 3 World Cup Clubs and 3 European Super Cup. Mbappe, with only six seasons as a pro, has played 203 games and 126 goals, has won 4 French Leagues, 1 French Champions Trophy, 2 French Cups and 2 Cups of the French League.
Mbappe, as the wonder kid he is, reached his 100th goal with 20 years old, at a match between the French national team and Andorra. Messi celebrated the centenary goal with 22 years old. The Argentinian knows what it’s like to be a world champion but just in the Junior level: he won the U-20 world cup in Netherlands in 2005 and the gold Olympic medal in Beijing 2008. Mbappe won the European U-19 tournament but he, still a rookie, won the most important title of soccer: the FIFA World Cup with the French national team in Russia 2018, beating Messi in the 1/8 finals.
Soccer is not like any other sport. Messi is undoubtedly the best player in the world and has never won a World Championship with the major team. Some speculate that his drive comes from this very unfortunate fact and that it is the reason why he keeps playing at this high level at his age. Does this mean that Mbappe’s career might be over sooner than later precisely because he has a World Cup to show off to his family and friends in his early twenties? All we can corroborate so far is that this kid has “Messi” material and he’ll need to keep his game up high if he wants to occupy a place in the Pantheon of best ever Soccer Players.
By Alejandro Panfil for DROB Collectibles.
It looks like it is the perfect moniker for Mbappe!