One Champions League final, 5 league trophies, 1 World Cup, and a golden boot, it’s hard to imagine that a player in his early 20s could achieve such accolades. At just 24 years of age, those are a glimpse of Kylian Mbappe’s achievements in his short 8 years as a professional football player.
Kylian Mbappe’s name is always a frontrunner when talking about the next big thing in football. In fact, one might argue that he already is one of the best active players in world football.
Mbappe’s popularity is definitely well-deserved. Not only do his statistics speak for him, his exciting style of dribbling, incredible pace, and clinical finishing made him the player he is today.
Like many modern football players, Mbappe is versatile and can play multiple attacking roles. That being said, it would be interesting to take a deeper dive into his true position; is he better off as a striker with his exceptional finishing skill, or is he a winger at heart?
Mbappe by the numbers
|Appearances and Goals For Club|
|Paris Saint Germain||2017-2023||243||196|
Appearances and Goals For Country (excluding friendlies)
Early Career: Breaking through in Monaco
Born and raised in France, Mbappe started training early at 6 years of age. He trained under his father Wilfried Mbappe who was a coach in his first team AS Bondy. Always played as a striker, Mbappe always stands out as he outpaces most of his teammates.
After catching interest from European giants such as Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Manchester City, and even doing trials in Real Madrid and Chelsea, Kylian Mbappe landed in AS Monaco where he finished the last few years of his youth career.
At just 16 years old, Kylian Mbappe caught the attention of AS Monaco’s head coach Leonardo Jardim, who made him a regular at AS Monaco’s B team. However, his stint with the B team did not last long as he was called up to the senior squad after just 3 weeks.
Mbappe made his debut with AS Monaco in a match against Caen where he came on as a replacement for senior player Fabio Coentrao, which saw him break his first of many records as he beat French legend Thierry Henry as the youngest player to play for AS Monaco at just 16 years and 347 days.
A few months later Mbappe broke another record previously set by Thierry Henry as the youngest first-team goal scorer in AS Monaco’s history at just 17 years and 62 days.
Settling in: Completing Monaco’s Golden Era
AS Monaco was a decent team, but it does not belong with European elites such as Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Liverpool, or its rival Paris Saint Germain. However, AS Monaco under Leonardo Jardim was a different beast. Reaching the top 4 in the UEFA Champions League and competing for domestic titles was the new standard at Monaco under Leonardo Jardim.
Brought to a flourishing AS Monaco team, Kylian Mbappe had the opportunity to play with some of the hottest talent in football, including Thomas Lemar, Bernardo Silva, Fabinho, and a striker who Mbappe later thanked for having such a positive influence on his game, Radamel Falcao.
Leonardo Jardim’s Monaco was playing with a 4-4-2. With players like Thomas Lemar and Bernardo Silva filling up the flanks, Mbappe was positioned as a striker alongside a prime Radamel Falcao. Radamel Falcao would act as a target man, waiting for crosses from Lemar and Silva, while Mbappe would have the freedom to hassle the opponent’s defender with his pace.
Mbappe’s highlight in his short senior career with AS Monaco would be helping the team win the 2016/17 Ligue 1 title, where he scored 26 goals in 44 matches.
Arriving in Paris: Another Record for Mbappe
Kylian Mbappe first arrived at Paris Saint Germain on loan, persuaded by Unai Emery as he promised Mbappe a spot in the first team, something Zidane could not give as Real Madrid was also looking for his signature.
During his season-long loan, Mbappe scored 21 goals in 44 games, which is enough for Paris Saint Germain to break yet another transfer record as Mbappe became the most expensive teenager in the following transfer window (2018) in a deal worth 180m euros.
Upon his arrival in Paris, PSG had already signed Neymar and had Edinson Cavani as the club’s number 9. Accordingly, Mbappe’s role was to fill up the flank in Unai Emery’s 4-3-3 formation, often placing Mbappe in the right-wing position with Cavani on the centre and Neymar on the other side of the flank.
As Thomas Tuchel arrives and turns PSG’s formation to a 3-5-2, Mbappe would find himself in a familiar position as a second striker, playing alongside Edinson Cavani as Neymar was frequently hindered by injuries.
Mbappe Today: Leading the Line With the GOAT
Lionel Messi made a shock move from Barcelona to Paris Saint Germain in 2021. While it was horrible news for Barcelona fans, Parisians were extremely excited with the prospect of seeing the greatest of all time linking up with what might be his successor.
While people were excited to see the trio of Messi, Mbappe, and Neymar leading the line for PSG, the fact is that each of them is frequently injured and manager Christophe Galtier rarely had the chance to have a strong run with 3 of them playing regularly.
In times when all 3 players are fit to play, Galtier often opts for a 4-3-1-2 with Mbappe as a striker alongside Messi, with Neymar just behind both of them. This formation allows Mbappe to act as a target man while still having the freedom to showcase his pace through the flanks.
As it stands, PSG’s 2022/23 season has been filled with injuries, especially in the attacking positions. Regardless, Christophe Galtier made it clear that his plan is to play his 4-3-1-2 with Mbappe as one of his leading strikers. Whenever either Messi or Neymar is injured, Mbappe would be playing alongside PSG’s young striker Hugo Ekitike.
Kylian Mbappe is only 24 years old and still has a long career ahead of him. While there are still trophies and awards that he has not won yet (Champions League, Ballon D’or), it is hard to imagine Mbappe not ending up as one of the most dangerous attackers to ever play in the modern era of football.
Looking back at his career and highlights, it would be understandable to think of Mbappe as a winger, especially with his pace and dribbling skills. However, the statistics over the years have shown that Mbappe is more suited or at least more often played as a striker, whether it is a classic number 9 or a second striker in a 3-5-2 formation.
You can find out whether Messi is considered as a winger or striker here.
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