The date is November 7, 1993. All eyes are on Brazilian side Cruzeiro, who have just picked up a 6-0 win over Bahia.
It’s a scoreline which attracts headlines on its own, but the most exciting aspect of this game was the five-goal haul bagged by a 17-year-old kid by the name of Ronaldo Nazario.
The game was one of those breakout moments, after which everyone who saw it was left in no doubt that Ronaldo was going to be a superstar. He was destined to be a future Ballon d’Or winner, or rather a two-time Ballon d’Or winner.
Fast-forward 23 years to October 21, 2016, when Monaco stormed to a 6-2 win over Montpellier courtesy of a goal and two assists from a 17-year-old Kylian Mbappe.
That was the moment that the world began to take notice of this young Frenchman, who had broken Thierry Henry’s record for the youngest-ever player for Monaco less than 12 months earlier, but fans tried to temper their expectations for a player who had had more growth spurts than senior appearances.
Their caution expired in February 2017, when Mbappe became the youngest player to score a hat-trick in Ligue 1 in a 5-0 win over Metz, and that game sparked a ridiculous run of form which is yet to come to its end.
In the four years since that game, Mbappe has won four Ligue 1 titles. He’s reached a Champions League final. He’s finished seventh, fourth and sixth in Ballon d’Or voting, and he also led France to the 2018 World Cup.
It’s the kind of impact from a young player which we haven’t seen since Ronaldo himself. Mbappe could retire right now and still have had a career which 99% of players could only dream of.
While most players his age are still finding their feet or starting to show signs of living up to their potential, Mbappe is already well past that. It’s not a question of whether he will ever win the Ballon d’Or, but rather, how many will he win?
He is already among the finest strikers in world football, and he boasts the kind of numbers needed to back that up. Mbappe bagged his 100th goal for Paris Saint-Germain in just 137 appearances, with only the already-established Zlatan Ibrahimovic (124) doing it faster.
Despite that obvious success, any accolades earned by a PSG player come with an asterisk in the eyes of many fans. Ligue 1 is not respected as highly as most of Europe’s other top leagues, and it’s not hard to find spoil-sports on social media who are quick to remind you of that.
However, Mbappe has been shattering records in the Champions League as well.
He’s the youngest player to ever reach ten, 15 and 20 Champions League goals, and it’s not unfathomable that he’ll soon add more milestones to his ever-growing list. Mbappe scores goals, and he does so against every kind of competition in the world.
You only have to look at how highly regarded he is by those who have watched him for the full extent of Mbappe’s greatness.
“If you gave me €1bn, I wouldn’t sell him.”
– PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi.
“He is part of the group of five or six top players that will soon dominate the world.”
– Arsene Wenger
“I don’t like comparing players – Mbappe has to become Mbappe and that is all. But my word, he is good. Ooh la la. l really like watching him play.”
– Thierry Henry
“He’s a phenomenon. He’s clearly going to be the best player in the world in the future.”
– Cesc Fabregas
They are just four opinions, but it’s not hard to find countless others with the same message. Mbappe is ridiculously good already and still has five-or-so years before he reaches his peak. To say the sky is his limit would be an injustice to the astronomical level at which he is already playing.
We’re already witnessing a player who is terrorising opponents, scoring goals and winning some of the biggest prizes on offer, but Mbappe’s career is still in its infancy. This is only the start, and it’s utterly terrifying to think about what the future holds for the Frenchman.
Mbappe has already overtaken Ronaldo’s tally for league titles, and it’d take a brave person to bet against him bypassing the rest of the Brazilian’s accolades before his career winds down.