Sky is the limit for Mbappe
12:00 AM, July 06, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:58 AM, July 06, 2018

Sky is the limit for Mbappe

France's Kylian Mbappe is undoubtedly fast. 

England's Theo Walcot runs fast too. So do at least half a dozen footballers in this World Cup. But Mbappe appears different altogether. Why?

Some examples of his rarity were exposed in the match that knocked Argentina out of the World Cup. From the edge of the Argentine half, Mbappe burst into high-octane acceleration and sped towards goal, with three Argentines helplessly chasing behind. Marcos Rojo somehow got nearer to stop him, at the cost of penalty.

The teenage sensation is lightning fast. The kind of speed he exhibits creates a visual illusion that makes the watcher feel like he or she is viewing an almost eerie, otherworldly phenomenon. With Mbappe generating raw pace, others on the field seem to slow down and one tends to think 'geez, he shouldn't be there already!'

Running fast is not all that got the global media going gaga over Mbappe. He can think fast, stop to twist and turn abruptly while running at nearly 37km/hour and shoot with precision.  

It is individual brilliance at its best that usually marks the arrival of great players. World football experienced such excitement with the arrival of Maradona in 1986, Pele in 1958 and Zinedine Zidane in 1998. If Mbappe doesn't lose his way, football fans will have someone to cheer for after Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo hang up their boots.     

Quite inappropriately though, Mbappe is being compared with Pele after becoming the first teenager since the Brazilian legend to score two goals in a World Cup knockout match. Pele had actually scored two goals in the World Cup final in 1958 against Sweden.

He is just 19, with only 54 league matches worth of experience before making his mark in this World Cup. Despite the meteoric rise of Mbappe, all his talents and traits are natural and raw, to some extent. And he can only get better with the right nurturing.  

For now, it is only fair to say that the wonder kid is reminding pundits and fans of many a star of yesteryear. Sometimes he is a glimpse of Pele, at others Michael Owen and sometimes Ronaldo, El Phenomenon of Brazil.

The teenage sensation will face a litmus test on Friday, when France take on Uruguay -- a team credited with having the meanest defence. Unlike the match against Argentina, Oscar Tabarez's men won't allow Mbappe the space to run or shoot. How the forward transforms himself when faced with a tight defence will be a matter of global scrutiny.        

However, Uruguay's over-attention on Mbappe may give France coach Didier Deshamps a huge edge. This may come as a blessing for the other French strikers Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud.

Whether he fares well or fails today, it will not burst the Mbappe bubble. Coached by his father and fascinated by Ronaldo, Mbappe has already grown up to be somebody in world football, with Real Madrid reported to have gone after him, dumping the plan to rope in Neymar -- the most expensive player with a price tag of 222 million euros.

Mbappe, who plays in the shadow of Neymar at Paris Saint-Germain, is already the second most expensive player in the world with a price of 180 million euros. 

That's too much money and would turn any head! But this teenager seems different from other jet-set players in this faculty as well. 

The young man is already a godfather of charity. Mbappe does not believe he should be paid to represent his country. So, the money he earns in match fees, which is nearly 19,000 euros per match, goes to a charity that works with disabled children.

Isn't he incredible already?

The writer is former Sports Editor of The Daily Star

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