France – Portugal – Why doesn’t he take the depth anymore? Mbappé on the way to “Ronaldisation”

France – Portugal – Why doesn’t he take the depth anymore? Mbappé on the way to “Ronaldisation”
France – Portugal – Why doesn’t he take the depth anymore? Mbappé on the way to “Ronaldisation”

Saturday, June 30, 2018, a blazing afternoon in Kazan. In the crushing heat of Tatarstan, the Blues escape thanks to a draft. That day, in the 8th finals of the World Cup, Kylian Mbappé and his fiery legs revealed themselves to the world at the same time as they brought down Lionel Messi’s Argentina. In the 11th minute, he sprinted 50 meters, devouring the spaces left free, Rojo jostled him: penalty. It was a demonstration of the French dragster against the Argentine caravans. Six years later, at the German Euro, Mbappé had grown up. He had become an absolute reference, the most coveted player in the world.

But he plays less on his speed. The problem is that he suffers from it in Germany. He is less dangerous and his statistics have plummeted (1 goal from a penalty). At the Euro, like all season in Paris, he likes to receive the ball in his feet on the left side, challenge his opponent, serve his full-back who overflows or enter the area to shoot. Mbappé got closer to the goal because the defenses ended up integrating the problem by leaving less space behind them.

Kylian Mbappé during France – Belgium

Credit: Getty Images

When you are very high, you should not stick it

Either you stick close to him and use your arm strength to prevent him from starting, or you get ahead.explained Adil Rami, his former teammate in Blue. It depends where you are on the pitch with him. When you are very high up, you should not stick to him. But in the box, or as soon as you get close to 20 metres, you have to be very close before he controls and before he triggers.“Less naive, the defenders no longer leave him space and Mbappé has had to adapt to find other stratagems. A bit like Cristiano Ronaldo who, at Sporting and then at Manchester, was a dribbling and fast winger. At Madrid, the Portuguese got closer to the goal to end up as a center forward in 2011, CR7 became CR9. He was 26, Mbappé is 25.

When I started, I was dribbling, I was showing off, I was putting my feet on the ball. But I realized that wasn’t enough. That I needed to score goals.“, he told France Football in 2019. Ronaldo has become a box striker and his statistics have jumped, passing for the first time the barrier of 50 and soon 60 goals per season. With 44 goals since September, Mbappé has had his most prolific season in Paris despite significantly reduced playing time.

I prepared my body to play much fuller seasons

But the metamorphosis is not just a question of stats. It mainly reflects the reflection started by the player himself on his future in the medium and long term. Mbappé adapted his game because he wanted to flesh it out and not fall into his own caricature.I have evolved, I have changedhe revealed last week. I prepared my body to play much fuller seasons. Next season with Real, I will be able to play seven competitions. That’s a lot of matches, you have to prepare. When you win somewhere, you inevitably lose somewhere else. These are all calculations that I made. When you are younger, you are much fresher even if I remain young.”

“This is the best squad in the history of Portugal”

The idea, visible since his return from the World Cup in Brazil, was to build muscle, to strengthen himself to face the crazy schedules. In short, to lose explosiveness and gain endurance by working other muscle fibers. But the photograph of this Euro is particularly caricatured. Mbappé hardly sprints anymore. He is stuck on his side with no space in front of him. We could add two more circumstantial explanations. The first, Mbappé does not have the legs.

His truncated preparation last summer, his repeated and sometimes homeopathic use by Luis Enrique have broken his rhythm and do not allow him to be at the top for the most important meeting of the season. “I don’t think I have all my legs back, I need good preparation, he confided, as frank as ever, on Thursday at a press conference. I have never been the player who makes excuses but to be explosive, really fast, I need good preparation.”

A small tackle placed on the PSG that shelved him last August in one of the most crucial moments of the year. Mbappé, himself, has a very final explanation. If he is less explosive, it is because he would have no choice: “A striker must adapt to his teammates, he continued. We no longer have Paul (editor’s note: Pogba). With him, you just have to lower your head and make a call. You know that the ball will arrive at your feet. With the players I have, we can play less in depth.” His teammates, Aurélien Tchouaméni in particular, will appreciate it. His evolution comes well beyond the absence of Pogba. It fits naturally into his career.

Ronaldo has a whole bunch of launching pads with Portugal. But he has chosen, as Mbappé is doing, another path that allows him to play in a Euro… at 39 years old.We are still in touch, Cristiano gives me advice, he helps merevealed the 2018 world champion. He always knew how to reinvent himself.“He is clearly not the only one.

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