Kylian Mbappe’s loan move from Monaco to Paris Saint-Germain is, without doubt, the strangest, most anti-climactic transfer of the recently closed window.
In a market so bloated that a journeyman like Danny Drinkwater and Paulinho – a player who has already proven a flop at Tottenham – can both be sold for over £35 million, having the most protracted saga of the summer end in a loan move seems bizarre.
Having already forked out €222 to make Neymar the most expensive player in history, the loan has been designed to help PSG side step Financial Fair Play regulations. it seems.
Monaco have allowed the player to leave on loan for the season with the understanding that PSG will cough up a fee of €180 million in next summer’s transfer window. But does the young forward have the skill set to take the next step?
Mbappe lit up last season’s Champion’s League, one of the stand-out players in the competition’s surprise package.
Leonardo Jardim’s side were a breath of fresh air, lacerating opposition defences with a combination of searing pace and technical, incisive football.
Built on the backs of the midfield axis of Bernardo Silva, Fabinho and Tiemoue Bakayoko, Monaco played at a high tempo looking to release Mbappe whenever possible.
Their opponents had two choices, play a high line and risk being obliterated by Mbappe’s pace or drop deep and have to contend with the movement of Falcao in the box. A terrible option and an arguably worse one.
All but one of Mbappe’s goals in the Champion’s League last season came against Borussia Dortmund and Manchester City. Both sides are renowned for pressing opponents and playing a dangerously high line.
In fact, City proved frail is almost every aspect of their defending over the course of the competition.
Mbappe’s other goal came against Juventus – the most suffocating defensive unit in world football – to his great credit, the youngster managed to get a toe to the ball and direct it goal-ward in a penalty area littered with some of the world’s best defenders.
One look at Mbappe’s 26 goals last season shows that this is no fluke. The striker has that knack of either being or arriving in the right place at the right time.
But there is a lack of control in Mbappe’s game that all of the best players have. His main objective is to get the ball out of his feet and run, he lacks the deftness of touch of someone like his new teammate Neymar.
That instant control top class players don’t even have to think about that gives them invaluable extra nanoseconds on the ball.
Mbappe has bags of talent in its rawest form. But is that enough to see him have the same kind of impact on the Champion’s League for PSG this season? He’s now known to the world, not to mention every defender and coach in Europe, he will be in for completely different treatment.
Defenders will drop deep. Emphasis will be placed on stopping him from running. Every shoulder, shirt pull and body-check that knocks him off his stride will force him to fall back on his technique which may struggle to stand up to the rigors of the game at the highest level.
It’s often said that the defending in Ligue 1 is sub-standard, with good reason. Mbappe’s highlight reel from last season is littered with defenders marking on the wrong side or not marking at all. He’ll fill his boots alongside Neymar and Edison Cavani domestically.
It’s in Europe that he’ll face the first real test of his career next season. If he fails will the permanent move still stand? Will Real Madrid still be interested?
Stephen Vaughan, Pundit Arena