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Meet the Next Thierry Henry

Kylian Mbappé is about to be a big deal in European soccer

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Kylian Mbappé is the next Thierry Henry. Loïc Rémy was supposed to be the next Henry, and Anthony Martial had the title after him. But after his Champions League performance against Manchester City on Wednesday, Mbappé looks like he might be worthy of the mantle. He is the latest in a line of young French strikers to be compared to the Arsenal/Barcelona/Red Bulls (stop laughing) legend, but at the age of 18, Mbappé is already more accomplished than Martial was when he completed his 2015 big-money transfer to Manchester United. The Monaco forward has netted 17 goals and added five assists across all competitions this season. He’s also the youngest player in 30 years to score 10 goals or more in Ligue 1. By comparison, Martial had 14 goals and six assists during his entire stay at Monaco. A European giant will make Mbappé a very rich man this summer (and make his current club even richer, which is saying something). His game against City all but guaranteed it.

When he made his debut, Mbappé was the youngest player in France’s Ligue 1 and he played only 25 minutes total in the Champions League group stage, but he has recently earned himself a permanent spot in Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim’s regular rotation, with seven goals in the last four home games across all competitions. Needing to win by at least two in order to advance, and missing Radamel Falcao due to injury, Jardim leaned on the young French striker to perform. Mbappé finished the match with 86 percent pass accuracy and two shots on target, and scored the first goal that sparked Monaco’s 3–1 victory.

With his combination of pace and power, Mbappé caused nightmares for City’s defense right up until he was subbed off in the 80th minute. His movement is incredibly fluid and he seems to always know where he should be positioned on the pitch. I had to clear my eyes a few times during the match because it felt like I was watching a clone of Thierry Henry. Man City probably did too.

However, Mbappé was far from the only reason for Monaco’s win. It was a team effort, beginning with the midfield. Tiemoué Bakayoko and Fabinho were responsible for Monaco’s other two goals, while their wide players Thomas Lemar and Bernardo Silva had an assist each.

For a while in the second half, it seemed history would repeat itself and Manchester City would come back to win the game, but Monaco’s back line — led by Benjamin Mendy, who had five interceptions and won four tackles — held strong.

Monaco has found themselves in the semifinals of the Champions League for the second time in three years. They handed Pep Guardiola his first loss ever in the quarterfinals of the competition.

With all eyes on him on one of the world’s biggest stages, Mbappé showed up. Many players have been labeled the next Thierry Henry and none of them have lived up to such high expectations — not yet, at least — but with Mbappé, we may actually see another Henry.