Not long ago, Kylian Mbappe was a boy living in the poor Parisian suburb of Bondy, who returned home after soccer practice to a bedroom adorned with posters of his idol, Cristiano Ronaldo.
Now 19-years-old, he is a starting forward for the French national team with a quarter-final match against Uruguay on Friday. As of last Sunday, he officially joined the club team Paris-Saint Germain for a fee of $217 million, which is the second highest fee of all time; the record is held by his clubmate Neymar. He spent the last season there on loan from AS Monaco in an agreement that contained a clause allowing PSG to permanently sign him to their roster.
“For a player so untested that figure seemed extraordinary when it was agreed, but it is increasingly coming to look like a bargain,” reports the Guardian.
— Soccer Laduma (@Soccer_Laduma) July 1, 2018
Mbappe is proving himself this month at the World Cup. During his performance against Argentina on Saturday, he earned France an early penalty kick after an impressive burst of speed — in order to stop his 60-yard sprint with the ball, the Argentinian defense resorted to dragging him down in the box. He later scored twice, becoming the first teenager to net multiple goals in the World Cup knock out stages since Pele in 1958.
France won the game 4 to 3, eliminating five-time Ballon D’Or winner Lionel Messi from the tournament.
Mbappe has also impressed at the club level. He contributed 13 goals and seven assists in just 28 League 1 appearances, helping PSG clinch the title.
His hometown of Bondy is one of the French banlieues, or “places with large, working-class, nonwhite communities, synonymous with riots and social strife, thought of as breeding grounds for crime and terrorism,” as the New York Times puts it.
Emerging from the banlieues and finding success is considered no easy feat. But on the current French national team, there are eight players from the banlieues, including Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi. Young people in the region celebrate their stories and dream of following in their footsteps. In Bondy, a giant mural of Mbappe looks down from the wall of an old apartment block.
“He was the best kid I coached. He is probably the best I will ever coach,” Antonio Riccardi, one of his first coaches on his first team, AS Bondy, tells the Times. From the time Mbappe was six-years-old, he stood out. And he listened, which is an important trait for any athlete who wants a chance of becoming a star. “He assimilates advice quickly. You ask him something once, and the second time he does it,” Riccardi told ESPN.
Scouts from top clubs recognized his talent, too. He visited famous European teams such as Chelsea when he was 12 and Real Madrid a couple of years later before deciding to sign with Monaco when he was only 16. His first year, he became the youngest player to ever score for the club, breaking a record formerly held by the retired French star Thierry Henry.
Mbappe credits his astronomical success to practice and dedication. “In football, everything is possible through hard work and I think that has been important,” he told beIN Sports last year. “I’ve always believed in myself and I knew I was capable of doing great things. It isn’t just about desire and wanting to succeed, you must work hard.”
Even though he found fame at a young age, Mbappe maintains a reputation for being both humble and generous. He is donating the approximately $22,300 he makes each game he plays in the World Cup to Premiers de Cordees, an association that organizes sporting events for children with disabilities. And though he makes over $1.7 million a month at PSG, he doesn’t splurge. “I may be ahead of my age, but in real life I am still a kid,” Mbappe told beIN Sports. “‘Footballer’ does not rhyme with ‘Ferrari.’ I have no car, it’s not a big deal.”
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