OPINION: Mbappe can no longer be satisfied with being the hero of PSG's easy success

OPINION: Mbappe can no longer be satisfied with being the hero of PSG's easy success
From now on, Kylian Mbappe can no longer be satisfied with being the hero of PSG's easy successes
From now on, Kylian Mbappe can no longer be satisfied with being the hero of PSG's easy successes
Kylian Mbappe (24), who was almost invisible against Lyon last time out, has been spared criticism, with Lionel Messi's (35) performances allowing him to remain in the shadows. However, the new captain of Les Bleus can no longer afford to offer lacklustre performances, especially if he is back in the news for off-field matters.

Mbappe wanted a huge contract: he got it. He wanted responsibility: he got it, both at club level and with the French national team. And when he publicly lashes out at his employer, it is the employer who apologises, demonstrating the absurd existence of a "Kylian Saint-Germain", an expression that will go down in history and will certainly do more harm than good to its inventor.

However, when PSG go wrong, Messi is always the first target of criticism. The defeat at the Parc des Princes against Lyon attests to this, as it was already the case against Bayern during the first leg of the Champions League. In the photos, in many media, it is mostly the Pulga who is exposed, much more rarely KMB.

Kylian Mbappe at the forefront, Leo Messi in the background

The reason for this is obvious: hitting Messi is free. The Argentine has no connection with Paris Saint-Germain, having arrived in the capital by chance and for lack of opportunity after his hasty departure from Barcelona.

There is no consequence to criticising him, knowing also that behind the salvos of whistles, there is also resentment after the World Cup final. On the other hand, there is a real interest in sparing, even protecting, Mbappe.

Who would want to alienate the number one representative of French football? However, to incriminate Messi in particular is to say that he is the leader and therefore to demote Mbappe in the hierarchy.

"It is a good thing that we have a lot of players who are very good at what they do," Mbappe said. But he can no longer afford to disappear from circulation when matches get tough. From now on, he is condemned to excellence.

This mission is not part-time and is no longer confined to easy matches, when the opponent lacks quality, when no rough edges hinder the power of the Parisian club.

So, after a very consistent 2021-2022 season (28 goals and 19 assists in Ligue 1, six goals and six assists in the Champions League), to consider that he is marking time, that he was not present during the most important match of the season, is a simple observation and does not call into question what he has achieved previously and what he could achieve in the future.

He simply cannot be exempt from criticism when he has done everything to be the centre of attention, even if it means offending some members of the dressing room.

His role now is to carry his team full time. He must represent it in institutional campaigns, but also in the game. Messi misses a lot but he has the merit of trying to get out of his zone, to come deeper to get the ball and to try to organise attacks.

Still too one-dimensional, Mbappe struggles against low blocks and to find the technical accuracy needed when the opposition is organised and leaving little space. And when he does manage to get a chance, like the one in the ninth minute against Lyon after a masterful pass from Messi, he needs to score, especially when he has had the time and space to chip the ball over Anthony Lopes.

Anthony Lopes comes out in front of Kylian Mbappe

In short, Mbappe performs well against clearly inferior teams where, sooner or later, talent is enough to make the difference.

19 goals including two penalties in Ligue 1 with such a team and such playmakers is quite a good return but it's not phenomenal (and it raises the question of their replacement in the short and medium term because it will be difficult to find as good). He shares the lead in the top scorers' chart with Jonathan David, who is followed by Alexandre Lacazette and Folarin Balogun (17), not forgetting Loïs Openda and Habib Diallo (15) in ambush.

By way of comparison, in 2012, the year he turned 25, Messi scored 91 goals, 59 of them in LaLiga alone.

In 2009-2010, Cristiano Ronaldo, who was new to LaLiga with Real Madrid, scored 26 goals and provided nine assists, with Gonzalo Higuain, Karim Benzema and Raul all competing in attack. And that's without even mentioning their European trophies and Ballon d'Or awards.

It was a very good match," he said, "and I think it's a good thing that we're going to have a good match. The Parisian coach spoke of the need for a part of his team to go beyond the call of duty, starting with the midfielders.

But to get it, you have to give the desire to surpass yourself. This is what Messi has managed to do with Argentina and Barca.

But it is totally illusory to ask him to do that with PSG: he has neither the emotional link nor the ambition nor even the desire to do it.

That is Mbappé's job because it is "his" club. He, the NBA fan, wanted, even demanded, this overexposed and overmediatised franchise player status.

At PSG, the project is Mbappe. He has extended his contract for that reason, at a price that locks him in because no club in the world can offer him an equivalent contract.

To leave would be to give up. To leave would be to opt for a more affordable challenge, contrary to the image he wants to project. This requires higher statistical performances, but also a change in his game. Mbappe will not always be able to rely on his speed. Technically and tactically, he must evolve.

The question is whether he has the ability, the will and whether his entourage, both personal and media, pushes him out of his comfort zone. This will also involve more acute criticism of his performance. This will make his future achievements all the more valuable.


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