- Kylian Mbappé has previously been touted as the future, but after a stunning World Cup tournament the future is now – Mbappé is here.
- Three key statistics indicate the Paris Saint-Germain and France forward is already out-performing Cristiano Ronaldo, the world’s best player, in certain areas.
- Mbappé is faster, is a more daring dribbler, and is more creative with the football than Ronaldo has been over the last 12 months.
- There is one clear area where Ronaldo remains king – but the two soccer standouts will likely go head-to-head in the coming season to determine who is best.
- Read all of Business Insider’s soccer coverage for the 2018-2019 season here.
Kylian Mbappé is no longer the next big thing in world soccer.
Why? Because Mbappé is here, he’s arrived, and he’s already one of the biggest names in sport.
Mbappé is a two-time Ligue 1 champion, a 2018 FIFA World Cup winner, and already one of the best and most exciting athletes in soccer – and he’s still only 19 years old.
What may be terrifying for the defenders attempting to mark him is that Mbappé can only get better and better. He will play more games, score more goals, and get faster, fitter, and stronger with every match that he plays. He is, after all, still six years away from hitting his peak strength, as science says this will only arrive when he turns 25.
But Mbappé is already brilliant. He has dart-like dribbling and electric pace, he has predatory goalscoring instincts from all angles, and, as his goal in the World Cup final showed, he is a big-game player and will rise to the biggest of occasions.
And this all comes at a time when soccer’s top player is at the other end of his career. Cristiano Ronaldo, 33, may have just competed in his last ever World Cup, and he is far-removed from his peak years as an athlete.
Ronaldo began with a bang, but finished with a whimper
Ronaldo began the 2018 World Cup in thrilling fashion, banging in three goals against Spain in a scintillating 3-3 draw on June 15. But after that, Ronaldo’s effectiveness waned with every game.
Portugal limped over the finish line of the Morocco game with a 1-0 win on June 20, failed to beat Iran in a 1-1 draw on June 25, and got kicked out of the competition because of a 2-1 loss to Uruguay in the Round of 16 on June 30. That final game was Ronaldo’s worst at the World Cup, as he produced a truly awful display.
The way Ronaldo began with a bang but finished with a whimper was a stark contrast to how Mbappé’s powers only enhanced with every matchday.
France did enough to claim top spot of its group without really excelling, and eventually broke into a higher gear in the knockout rounds when it stunned Argentina with a smash-and-grab 4-3 win, a game where Mbappé scored a double. It then beat Croatia 4-2 in a World Cup final where the teenager was once again one of the best players on a pitch filled with men many years older than he was.
Mbappé, a champion with France, was crowned the best young player at the competition and was also named in many team of the tournament lists including ESPN, Goal.com, and Yahoo Sports. Ronaldo, meanwhile, was nowhere to be seen.
But the World Cup is only a seven-game competition and, as Ronaldo knows only too well, one bad game can result in a humbling exit. A more fair way to compare Mbappé to Ronaldo is to look at club-level statistics from the last league season. Yet when it comes to three key stats the winner is clear – and it is once again Mbappé.
In fact, a hat-trick of key statistics suggest Mbappé could continue to eclipse Ronaldo in the coming league season.
1. Mbappé is faster than Ronaldo.
Earlier this week, Mbappé was described by France teammate Raphaël Varane as “a young alien.” Perhaps not in the literal sense, but his sprint speeds alone stand him out as a freak human, if not someone from another planet.
In Paris Saint-Germain’s 3-1 win over Lille in Ligue 1 in December 2017, Mbappé sprinted at a top speed of 44.7 km/hr before he struck the team’s third and final goal. His average speed was 36 km/hr – which is even more impressive when you realise eight-time Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt averaged 37.5 km/hr when he set the world 100m record in 2009.
A study published by Mexican soccer club CF Pachuca claimed Ronaldo could sustain a sprint speed of 33.6 kmh, last year. Fast, yes. Very fast, sure. But not Mbappé fast.
2. Mbappé is a more daring dribbler than Ronaldo.
Mbappé, so confident with the ball at his feet, can often be found dribbling at defenders at speed. In the 2017-2018 league season for Paris Saint-Germain he attempted 2.9 dribbles per game – a figure far higher than Ronaldo, who posted a more conservative 1.1 dribbles per game representing Real Madrid.
3. Mbappé is more creative than Ronaldo.
Mbappé is also more creative with the ball, according to statistics. In the same season, the wunderkind returned an 83.1% pass completion rate, created almost two goalscoring opportunities per appearance, and provided eight assists from 24 starts.
Ronaldo, meanwhile, returned an 81.6% pass completion rate, created only one goalscoring opportunity per appearance (almost half as productive as Mbappé), and provided five assists from 27 starts.
Still, Ronaldo remains the goalscoring king
Ultimately, what separated Ronaldo from Mbappé was his overall effectiveness as a goalscorer.
Ronaldo was responsible for scoring or creating a goal once for every 73 minutes he played for Real Madrid in La Liga, whereas Mbappé was only able to score or create a goal once for every 99 minutes he played for Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue 1.
Mbappé, despite his superior speed, has not overtaken Ronaldo as the planet’s best soccer player just yet. But there will be plenty of opportunities to play catch-up in the coming season, when PSG and Juventus, Ronaldo’s new club, look to land club soccer’s greatest prize – the UEFA Champions League.
It is a tournament Ronaldo, as a five-time winner, has almost made his own, but in Mbappé he has a rival who not only shares the same desire to win the competition, but has the ability to perform at the highest level in the biggest games on the grandest of stages.
Yes, he was once the future. But if Mbappé can find an even higher gear this season, there will be no question that he alone is soccer’s present, leaving Ronaldo as soccer’s past.
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