Kylian Sanmi Mbappé Lottin, who currently plays for French Ligue 1 side Paris Saint-Germain, has explained his reasons for rejecting offers from Real Madrid, adding that Cristiano Ronaldo used to be his childhood hero but not now.
Image: Kylian Mbappe
Mbappe, 19, chose PSG on loan from Monaco last summer, and has been part of the club’s formidable strike-force with Neymar Jr. and Edison Cavani.
Ahead of PSG’s preparations for their 2017/18 Champions League (Group of 16) clash against Real Madrid at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, the France international footballer said he’s highly motivated to measure up against Ronaldo and his teammates.
Mbappe may be young in age but his strength, vision, dribbling skills, and goal-scoring abilities earned him a selection among 2017’s most prolific strikers. He warns Los Blancos faithfuls that it’s time for him to write his names into the history books.
Speaking in an interview with Marca, the young and brave striker gave bold answers to all questions thrown at him.
It’s said that Real Madrid vs Paris Saint-Germain was the Champions League final everyone expected. Do you agree?
“Yes, yes. We are the two best teams in the world. Well, Real Madrid are the best team in the world, as they’ve won two consecutive Champions League titles, while we are growing. I think it’ll be a great knockout tie and we will go to the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu to qualify.”
What do you expect of your first visit to the Bernabeu?
“I’ve played in great stadiums, but never in the Bernabeu. It will be my first time and the truth is that I’m really looking forward to seeing it up close and personal the day before the game, to see it calmly and to prepare myself well.”
Players can make their mark with a good game at the Bernabeu. Is that why it’s more special for you?
“No, it’s special because it’s the last 16, a very important game. We know that we can prove a point to the world. It’s a game that can go down in our history against the reigning champions and we are all very motivated.”
Does the history and title of the opposition matter?
“You have to respect every team, but when we get to the Bernabeu we will give the utmost respect. We have to show our quality.”
What do you most like about Real Madrid?
“Above all, that they are very complete. They have some of the world’s best in every position and they have played together for years.”
You’ll be gong face to face with Cristiano Ronaldo. Is it a meeting with your idol?
“Yes, of course. He is a hero from my childhood and it was amazing to meet him when I visited Valdebebas. But I am a competitor and a person who is very competitive and all I want to do is win, win, win. So it doesn’t really matter who is in front of us, we want to win. I admired him when I was younger, but that ended. Now I go to the Bernabeu to play and to win.”
Is he still someone you look up to?
“You learn from them, of course. From someone who has won five Ballon d’Ors you can learn a lot. He’s a great player, but I have those here too. Neymar is here and I think he is very similar and is at practically the same level as Cristiano Ronaldo. I learn from [Edinson] Cavani as a goalscorer too.”
The MCN front three is in fashion. Is it better than the rest already?
“Honestly, we don’t think about it, we don’t think about being the best attack in the world, only the best team in the world. What we want to do is win and be competitive, it’s good that we are the best attack in the world, but it doesn’t guarantee you anything, it’s the whole team that wins. It’s true that it’s good to have a good striker, but you have to win.”
PSG are the eternal dreamers when it comes to being crowned European champions. With this project, has the time come?
“Why not? We had a great group stage and we have the opportunity to show the world that we can knock out the team that has been champion of Europe in the past two seasons. So there’s no pressure, not at all, the pressure isn’t on us. We are going to play our game, our style and give our all to qualify.”
Neymar has taken you on like his student and you always seem to enjoy playing alongside him. Is this the way to succeed?
“People on the outside see a Neymar on the pitch, but that’s not him. People see him doing tricks and dribbles and think that he is only trying to enjoy himself, that he’s selfish and only thinks about himself. But when you share a dressing room with him you realise that it’s not the case. It’s true that he’s a very kind person, that he is interested in others. He’s very nice, and he plays for the team first. It’s true that his football is all about dribbling and skills and you aren’t going to ask him to stop because he does it very well. There’s nobody who dribbled like him in this aspect of the game, he’s a footballer who can win us titles and we have to take advantage.”
Is it weird for you to play against a team which could have been your team?
“No, it’s part of being a footballer. There were a lot of transfer rumours, and it’s true that we spoke, but I believe that it’s now in the past for me and for Real Madrid. Now I play for PSG and I will defend these colours 100 percent.”
Why did you decide to join PSG?
“Because PSG is the team of my city. [Joining Real Madrid] would have been like a Real Madrid-supporting kid from Madrid having the chance to play for his team and deciding to go somewhere else, to another country. I wanted to play for PSG and I am very happy right now about how things are going.”
But you’re very young and you never know, right?
“Of course, I’m very young. I have time, but like I say, I want to play in the best team in the world in the future and PSG have everything it takes to be that team. If this team grows with me, there’s no need to leave.”
Where does the speed with which you play come from. Is it natural or hard work?
“I’ve always been quick, but it’s something you have to work for. A footballer always has to be fit to repeat these efforts every two or three days.”
Are Barcelona and Real Madrid the teams to beat after their domination in recent years?
“They’ve dominated football in the past few years, but I think that it’s not just them, there are other great teams. There’s Manchester City, who are very powerful now. We are there, as well as Juventus and Bayern Munich. There are a lot of teams who could go far.”
Would it be an achievement to for the ambitious PSG project to knock out Real Madrid?
“Without a doubt. The winning team from this last 16 tie will be the favourite to win the Champions league. If we can beat Real Madrid, the other teams will be scared. If Real Madrid do it, the same. Whoever wins, from then on, will be terrifying for the rest.”
You’ve just celebrated your 19th birthday and you’re breaking all kinds of records. For example, you’re the youngest goalscorer in the Champions League. Nobody has scored as many goals as you so young. Is the secret in your head or your legs? Your entourage, maybe?
“My family, first of all. They have always been right by my side. When things are going quickly, as they have for me, it’s important to have people close to you to keep your feet on the ground, to keep the head focused and to keep you calm. Someone that reminds you that this is just beginning, that I haven’t won the Champions League or the World Cup or many other big titles. I want to win all the titles and work hard for that, to reach that objective.”
But doesn’t it give you belief that you are developing much more quickly that other big footballing stars?
“Records are there to be beaten and that gives me belief, but there is nothing like winning trophies. It’s the most beautiful feeling.”
Is it a risk or a danger that you relax ahead of the Champions League if there is no competition left in the French league given the difference in points that PSG already have on their rivals?
“No, not at all. They are two completely different competitions. We know that in the Champions League every game will be complicated. We are ready to give our all in every competition when they return. We know that if we make a mistake, even with a tiny detail, the opposition can hurt you. I don’t think it has much to do with it.”
Another special meeting in the Real Madrid clash will be with Rapahel Varane. Has he said anything to you about it? He started very quickly like you too, so is he someone to look up to?
“For sure. He is a great player and an example. His determination is incredible, he’s very professional, respectful and has won it all. It’s very good to have him with us in the French national team.”
Do you have an idol in France?
“Well, I had [Zinedine] Zidane. But everyone in France loved Zidane. Anyone who likes football knows that he is a special case. What he is doing with Real Madrid since he became a coach is incredible, because I know that in that club it’s not easy. He’s taken a lot of pressure, maybe because he knows the club very well from his time as a player. He won the respect of everyone and I’m pleased for Zidane, for everything he’s achieved.”
And the World Cup? Can France win the title?
“We can say that there are favourites like Spain, England, Brazil, Argentina and France too. We will be there and we want to show what we can do.”
To finish, tell us your wish for 2018.
“Of course: To win the Champions League with PSG and the World Cup with France.”