Graeme Sons: Kylian Mbappe is not in Lionel Messi’s league, and never will be
What a drool-worthy prospect we have in store. You might say that the World Cup final is very symmetrical. Lionel Messi x Kylian Mbappe. Colleagues in the Paris Saint-Germain team, which is owned by Qatar.
Both distinct talents on both sides are good, if not great. Both men have scored five goals in the tournament, as they head into Sunday’s game.
But even though people are suggesting that Mbappe will inherit the Argentine’s crown as the greatest player in the world, I really don’t think we’ll put this 23-year-old in the same category as Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Pele and Diego Maradona, ten years from now.
Kylian Mbappe will never reach the pinnacle of Lionel Messi because of his style and play
Messi will always be another level for the France star, whose game is built around speed
Part of the problem is the power and wealth that Mbappe has at his club. When you’re a 23-year-old soccer player, you need someone to tell you “no” on a regular basis. But he makes unimaginable money at a club so desperate to keep him that he calls decisions on some key dates.
How could it really be for a 23-year-old to have such strength? I’m sorry if you think this is old fashioned, but this is not a healthy environment for the professional development and improvement of any young player.
Football has changed in many ways, but some great old principles have stood the test of time. Like the coaches being the ones in charge. At Liverpool, you clung to every world Bob Paisley, Ronnie Moran and Joe Fagan told you – no matter how good you thought you were. Mbappe will do none of that. If he gets to decide who the coaches are and how the club is run, that’s a recipe for everything blasting around his ears. For that reason alone, I very much doubt things will get better.
The Frenchman’s game relies on his explosive speed – something that diminishes with time
Messi has done special things every time he steps onto a pitch, and it’s his level of consistency that has put him there for 20 years in a duel with Cristiano Ronaldo for the right to be called “the goat.”
This is the challenge Messi poses to Mbappe. Not performing in every other game. to perform in every game. in the big moments. In every UEFA Champions League match. And although it is a lower league, in every French league match.
Mbappe’s biggest asset is that explosive power, but that’s about as good as he’ll get. It won’t get any faster as it gets older. Just slower. The big question, going forward, can he adjust his playing style with this lower pace?
Messi may not have Mbappe’s blast when he runs fast, but he has a mind unlike anyone else and is blessed with incredible style, not to mention courage. He walks around the stadium, seeing pictures that no one else sees.
This is the final many have been craving – pitting football’s past against its future in Messi and Mbappe
Mbappe signed one of the most lucrative sports contracts ever in the summer with Paris Saint-Germain
What Messi did with Croatian Josko Guardiol last night made this young defender tear in your eyes. Dear.
Any defender in the position Gvardiol has been in, as he has faced Messi, will be absolutely confident. You have Messi facing away from your goal. You have him in your field of vision. You got it where you need it. You are comfortable. But then, in the blink of an eye, the whole picture changes and a brain better than anything I’ve ever seen shook the head of that young defender.
You didn’t get it. He passed you. It’s not on your right side. It’s in front of you. He has such quick feet, such a low center of gravity and acceleration, with the ball no more than six inches from the end of either shoe he’s wearing. He passed you and pulled it back for Julián Alvarez to score his second.
Keep a close eye on France’s Hugo Lloris when Messi hits France’s goal on Sunday because that will give you another idea of the player’s speed of thought.
Messi has remained consistent for two decades, winning all but the trophies he covets most
I’ve lost count of the number of times in Messi’s career when I’ve seen a goalkeeper standing on his toes, warming up, jumping up and down knowing he’s going to shoot. And then, all of a sudden, the ball was in the back of the net and the ‘keeper’ didn’t dive. Messi takes the ball very early. He has that vision in his head. Everything is faster. For 20 years, he has been working on different speed settings.
I have a sense of what their opponents are up against from the times I faced Diego Maradona when my Sampdoria team played Napoli in the late 1980s. There were a few times I thought “I’m going to test you guys here”. Diego was 11 stone so I’m bigger and stronger than him. But he sees a challenge coming, changes his body shape and gets his weight in the right place. So I either miss him completely or turn away from him – the loser in that physical confrontation.
I had a drug test with him one day and we didn’t really connect with him, but the point about Maradona is that, just like Messi, he only found the key to a locked door.
The Argentine has been running on different speed settings throughout his career at the top
Even at the age of 35, Messi has outwitted his opponents in this World Cup on his way to scoring goals five times
France gives Mbappe license to be ready to exploit his pace, by deliberately not linking him to defensive duties. His faults can be revealed more defensively on Sunday than Messi because the Argentine generally operates in that central area where there are more bodies.
There is every chance that the match will be decided by one of them. But Messi is the person I want to watch more than ever. He is just the best. Unique soccer player. And because it came to a close, we cherish it. There is no one – and I mean no one – even remotely close to his quality.
England blew it up by keeping the handbrake on
Gareth Southgate probably wouldn’t think about it, but if you were to choose a composite team of England and France or England and Argentina, you would find that most of those teams were made up of the majority of England players.
You can’t say any of Sunday’s finalists are better than England, man against man. It’s just that they had these two special people who lit up the games.
If only England had been more adventurous in their football, the outcome could have been very different. I am baffled as to why James Maddison, a player whose creativity and goalscoring stats stand out over everyone else they have taken to Qatar, has not been seen or heard from. And don’t tell me Maddison won’t give his best playing for England.
James Maddison was left unused by Gareth Southgate in England’s World Cup campaign
I said a long time ago on these pages that Harry Kane has to be the difference and without his goals it would be difficult for England because I haven’t seen anyone else deliver in difficult moments. But Harry had a quiet tournament by his standards, while Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe have been game-changers for their teams.
England were proactive in the second half against France, when they were chasing things down, but if they had been on an equal footing throughout, it could have been a different story. Instead, players were operating with the handbrake most of the time. I just get this feeling that they ruined a golden opportunity. The best chance they’ve had for years to win the World Cup.
Go abroad…if they are the best man for the job
On the debate over whether or not England should appoint a continental manager if Gareth Southgate doesn’t stay, I’d say this: If Sir Alex Ferguson were 15 or 20 years younger than that, would the ‘English only’ argument get ahead?
of course not. In a perfect world, he would be an Englishman running England but you wouldn’t overlook a great candidate if he came from somewhere else in the world. He would be the best man for the job. Would you really say “no” to someone with better credentials who would be more likely to win you a trophy? We live in a global work environment and you need to be the best man for the job.
Not that Fergie was going to take him!
If a young Sir Alex Ferguson was in England, would the English-only argument apply?
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