Why Kylian Mbappe should have said 'no' to £85m Real Madrid move

"I don't like comparing players, but my word he is good. Ooh la la. I really like watching him play." Like everyone else in professional football, Thierry Henry has been in awe of Monaco prodigy Kylian Mbappe - the supposed heir to his throne - this season.

In 25 starts under Leonardo Jardim, the 18-year-old has scored a remarkable 24 goals and is widely expected to be the focus of a tug-of-war this summer between Real Madrid, Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea as a result.

Mbappe's rise has been meteoric in every sense of the word. From a 14-year-old local boy at AS Bondy, managed by father Wilfried, to Europe's hottest prospect, the winger has undergone an unparalleled transformation over the past four years.

And yet it could have been so different. In 2015, aged 16, Mbappe joined Monaco from Clairefontaine academy but only after rejecting Zinedine Zidane, who was in charge of Real Madrid Castilla - the club's reserve team - at the time.

"I'm just a kid and then, the best footballer of the history of France is talking to you," Mbappe told Telefoot in December, per the Daily Mail. "He was really touching and sincere with me. It was a great moment, but in the end, it (the transfer) didn't happen. I wanted to stay in my country. I stayed in Monaco and I think I've made the right choice."

Not many up-and-coming youngsters would reject the chance to play for Los Blancos - just ask Robinho, who joined from Santos as a 21-year-old in 2005 - but Mbappe did. Instead, he opted to make a name for himself in his home country.


Two years on from snubbing Zidane and unlike Martin Odegaard, who chose to join Real as a 16-year-old, Mbappe has excelled by scoring 14 goals to fire Monaco to within touching distance of the Ligue 1 title and five goals en route to the Champions League semi-finals.

But where there is a rising star, there is Real Madrid, and so the 11-time European Cup winners want Mbappe in an £85 million move this summer. In addition, Mbappe has said 'yes' to joining after speaking to Zidane, despite the fact regular football is no guarantee and the intense scrutiny he would face as a Galactico.

But would it be the right move for the teenager? At the tender age of 18, would Mbappe be better off rejecting Real for a second time and continue learning his trade at Monaco?

Mbappe can learn a lot from Anthony Martial's £36 million move to Manchester United in 2015, which is currently the record amount spent on a teenager but would be smashed if Mbappe does leave Monaco. Martial shone in his first season at Old Trafford, scoring 11 Premier League goals and one on his debut against Liverpool, but the 2016/17 campaign has been far less glamorous.


Thirty-eight appearances, eight goals and five assists in all competitions for Jose Mourinho is a far cry from what was expected of Martial, who admitted in December that his biggest problem has been consistency.

"I think consistency is my big problem. I have a tendency to have a good 35 minutes, and I drop in the last 15," the 21-year-old told SFR Sport. "I think it's mostly an endurance thing. I've improved my endurance a lot, but I know that if I improve it even more, I'll be able to progress."

Martial was far from a finished product when he joined United and perhaps that's come back to haunt him. Another season or two at Monaco would have allowed the winger to further hone his skills in a less intense environment, which is in stark contrast to Old Trafford, where the demands are far higher.

Luke Shaw (£31m) is another who reinforces the notion that teenage talent should learn the ropes at smaller clubs before making the step up, as is Anderson (£22m). Injuries have blighted both players' careers, but moving to United saw their performance levels drop. Anderson eventually paid the price in 2015 and has been in decline ever since, while Shaw faces a race against time to prove his worth under Mourinho.

There have been some exceptions to that trend over the years, of course, with Marquinhos (Roma to Paris Saint-Germain, 2013) and Sergio Ramos (Sevilla-Real Madrid, 2005) both proving excellent young signings, but attacking players are held to loftier standards and that's where Mbappe could come unstuck, just like Martial.

Wayne Rooney's £26 million move to United in 2004 serves as evidence that teenage forwards can thrive at the top, but the 31-year-old was a rare example of someone adapting so seamlessly at such a young age.

Sir Alex Ferguson's presence undoubtedly made a difference. Where Rooney's talent was nurtured by arguably football's greatest ever manager, Mbappe will be taken under the wing of a relatively inexperienced one - regardless of how good a player Zidane was - and at a club infamous for change.

Much will ultimately depend on Mbappe's attitude as to whether he flies or falls. Despite being Europe's hottest commodity, the forward still lives at Monaco's academy training complex and recently explained how you must be "extraordinary" to warrant an £85 million fee, which he claims he isn't. He certainly seems grounded.


"I remain very calm around this attention I get. I try to work to improve myself every day," he said, per Goal. "I would not say that what I do is extraordinary. I would just say that I am able to do what I know best. I would not say it's extraordinary. Extraordinary is a player who can score 60 goals. There are not a lot."

Mbappe possesses the talent to be a future world beater, no question, but Monaco represents the perfect platform for him to keep playing and developing in a stable environment and iron out any flaws - like Martial's consistency - before considering a big-money move abroad.

After all, history isn't the only factor working against Mbappe's dream move to Real Madrid. With Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema currently fronting their three-pronged attack, not to mention Alvaro Morata and Marco Asensio competing for places, it's a wonder where exactly Mbappe would fit in - even if someone was to make way this summer.

The Frenchman wouldn't encounter that problem at Arsenal, who are willing to make him a guaranteed starter if he joins them instead, but even Arsene Wenger appears to have his reservations.

"Can Arsenal get him? I don't know, that's down to him," he told beIN Sports. "Real Madrid? Maybe. Barcelona? Maybe. Arsenal? Manchester? He can go where he wants. Maybe the best thing for him is to stay one more year at Monaco."

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