Mbappe's meteoric rise stuns even him

Self-belief a vital attribute for career success, says teenage star as clubs come a-courting

PARIS • At just 18 years of age, Kylian Mbappe is the hottest property in the football transfer market this off-season and the French sensation admits that he has been surprised by how quickly his star has risen.

"I always had lots of imagination when I was little, so I am not going to say that I hadn't imagined it," he told AFP in an interview when asked if he expected to have won a league title and become a full international at such a young age.

"I imagined succeeding early, but I didn't really think things would happen so quickly.

"Of course I always believed. The players who have succeeded in their careers are the ones who believed in themselves."

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Billed as the new Thierry Henry, Mbappe made his top-flight debut for Monaco in December 2015 when still aged just 16, but it is in the last six months that he has gone from a player of great promise to one of the biggest stars in Europe.

He scored 15 goals to help Monaco win a first French title since 2000 and won his first cap for France in March.

He is now being linked to mega-money moves to one of the continent's biggest sides this close season, with Real Madrid leading the chase alongside the likes of Paris Saint-Germain, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and both Manchester clubs.

French teenager Kylian Mbappe (right) takes on England defender Kieran Trippier during the 3-2 victory against Gareth Southgate's team on Wednesday. Real Madrid are in pursuit of the Monaco forward, as are Paris Saint-Germain, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liver
French teenager Kylian Mbappe (right) takes on England defender Kieran Trippier during the 3-2 victory against Gareth Southgate's team on Wednesday. Real Madrid are in pursuit of the Monaco forward, as are Paris Saint-Germain, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and both Manchester clubs. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Sources told ESPN last week that two unnamed clubs have offered a fee worth about €100 million (S$154 million) for the French teenager but have had their bids rejected.

When asked about Real's interest in him, Mbappe said: "They have been trying to sign me since I was 14."

On Tuesday, he earned his fourth cap for Les Bleus, starring in a 3-2 friendly win over England in front of almost 80,000 fans at the Stade de France.

Speaking to reporters after the game, he said: "We're going to go away as a family and we're going to think it (the potential transfer) over.

"For the moment, I'm going to leave my suitcases in Paris, because we're here. I can't take them with me.

"We'll have to sort through things, see what happens with the club. I'm under contract, I'm not free."

Monaco's owner, Russian billionaire Dimitry Rybolovlev, has said that he is willing to sell any player as long as the price is right, further fuelling the possibility that Mbappe may leave in the summer.

Arsenal, who had an initial bid of £87 million (S$154 million) turned down, are said to be entering talks to strike a deal with Monaco in the next few days, according to the Evening Standard.

However, a lack of Champions League football after the Gunners' fifth-place finish last campaign may not be able to launch the French star even higher next season.

Mbappe claimed that he is "obsessed" with winning European football's elite club competition and not playing in it would be a factor for him not to move to north London.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 16, 2017, with the headline 'Mbappe's meteoric rise stuns even him'. Print Edition | Subscribe