Kylian Mbappé and PSG, an image that remains blurred

Kylian Mbappé and PSG, an image that remains blurred
Kylian Mbappé and PSG, an image that remains blurred

Six Ligue 1 championship and top scorer titles, 256 goals in seven seasons, the record speaks for itself, is it enough to make Kylian Mbappé, who left PSG for Real Madrid, the greatest and best player in the history of the Parisian club?

« K“Ylian Mbappé is the greatest player who has played for PSG.” On the American channel CBS, for which he is a consultant, Thierry Henry has made his decision. “Some will say it’s (George) Weah, or even (Mustapha) Dalheb, but for me, Mbappé is the greatest in the history of PSG.”.

If the coach of the French Espoirs and Olympique teams mentions Weah, it is because he is the only player from the club to have won the Ballon d’Or (over a season between PSG and AC Milan), if he refers to the Algerian international, it is because he wonderfully embodied the club’s rise to power in the early 80s.

In L’Equipe, his former Belgian teammate, Thomas Meunier, goes in the same direction: “There is no doubt, he is number 1, and by far. There is no debate, on the pitch, in the media, in charisma… It’s Mbappé.”

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More emotion for Rai’s departure…

In terms of charisma, the Belgian international perhaps forgets a little too quickly the impact of the Brazilian Rai, elected best player of the century by the supporters before the arrival of Mbappé, also because he was part of the club’s only European victory in 1994 (C2).

The emotion felt by all those who were there on the day Rai said goodbye to the Parc was far greater than that which accompanied the last match of the captain of the French team at the end of the season.

“It’s incomparable, Vahid Halilhodzic, former PSG player and coach, tells us: because the club has evolved a lot in the meantime. On the pitch, Mbappé is a better player, more decisive, more explosive, with superior technical and physical qualities to the Brazilian, but Rai’s influence on the team has also been very strong, perhaps more in a role of true leader that Mbappé only assumed in his last seasons after the departure of Neymar and Messi. Also because he was younger.

Rai, Mbappé, two incomparable eras

For former Parisian defender Alain Roche, “We must also put the performances of each player into context. Mbappé played for seven seasons in a team that outrageously dominated the championship, with very talented teammates, nothing to do with the PSG of the 90s which did not have the same European status.”

« But Kylian had such an influence on the game, such an impact on the team’s results that, for me, he is the best of all time in Paris. Weah, Susic, Ginola, Ronaldinho, Dalheb, Rai, Ibrahimovic, Neymar, Messi… no other player before him has been as decisive in PSG’s results with in addition a great regularity in his performances.

From one exceptional scorer to another, the journey of the child from Bondy is a bit like that of Jean-Pierre Papin at OM where he stayed six years to win four championships and be crowned top scorer five times. By scoring 182 goals in 228 matches (against 256 in 308 matches), JPP also lost a Champions League final, but managed to win the Ballon d’Or in 1991 when Mbappé could perhaps have had it in 2020, after the final lost against Bayern, without the Covid pandemic.

“Mbappé instrumental in PSG’s success”

The parallel with another former striker and captain of the French team would become troubling if Mbappé, like Papin, were to lose a second time in the Champions League final with Real… against PSG.

“Before JPP, OM had never reached the top European level, analyses the former Marseille coach Rolland Courbis, and even if the club won the Cup with the big ears without him, and even against him, in the eyes of the supporters he was part of the adventure and belongs forever to this legend. In Paris, before Mbappé, PSG had already won the Cup Winners’ Cup and achieved exploits in the Champions League. »

« Everyone expected him to take the club to even greater heights. If he had achieved that, he would have been forever the one who made them win. And there would be no more debate, it would be the best in history.”

Here again, you had to be at the Vélodrome on May 30, 1999, during his jubilee, to get a feel for the intensity of the bond that united Papin with the Olympians supporters, and to consider that at no time did Mbappé manage to create such a deep relationship, to touch people’s hearts with such authenticity. Without social networks, at a time when French football had not yet integrated all sectors of society thanks to the victory of the Blues in 1998, Papin was more accessible when Mbappé was always obliged to protect himself more, to put distances.

A national hero more than a Parisian hero

His more calculated, structured approach to the job has given him a colder and more realistic image. This is perhaps unfair because the child of Bondy still does a lot of things for his closest environment, but he embodies less than a Rai or a Luis Fernandez the idea that we have of the popular player who works hard and is constantly at the service of his team. His qualms last season about joining Real Madrid, his desire not to extend his contract, have altered his image without diminishing his incontestable record.

His six league titles, his four French Cups, his six consecutive trophies as top scorer in the championship (a record), his unprecedented double cap as top scorer-top passer in 2022, his 42 Champions League goals against the best teams on the continent make him untouchable in the eyes of those who have never seen a French player make so many individual differences, in Paris or elsewhere.

We are also talking about a world champion, a player capable of scoring four goals in his second World Cup final at just 23 years old. A national hero who has made France win more than PSG at international level, and who, by leaving for Real Madrid this summer after the Euro, aspires to nothing other than the title of GOAT (best player in the history) of French football.

Mbappé to PSG

  • 2017-2018: 44 matches, 21 goals and 16 assists, French Champion, French Cup, League Cup, 8th final of C1
  • 2018/2019: 43 matches, 39 goals, 15 assists French Champion, Coupe de France finalist, 8th final of C1, top scorer in L1 (33 goals)
  • 2019/2020: 37 matches, 30 goals, 14 assists, French Champion, French Cup, League Cup, C1 finalist, L1 top scorer (18 goals)
  • 2020/2021: 47 matches, 42 goals, 11 assists, 2nd in L1, Coupe de France, semi-finalist in C1, top scorer in L1 (27 goals)
  • 2021/2022: 46 matches, 39 goals, 21 assists, French Champion, 8th final of the Coupe de France, 8th final of the C1, top scorer in L1 (28 goals)
  • 2022/2023: 43 matches, 41 goals, 9 assists French Champion, 8th final of the Coupe de France, 8th final of the C1, top scorer in L1 (29 goals)
  • 2023/2024: 48 matches, 44 goals, 10 assists, French Champion, French Cup, C1 semi-finalist, L1 top scorer (27 goals)

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