Monaco surprised everyone by winning Ligue 1 this season. Manchester City have already split up the band by signing Bernardo Silva for around £43million, but it looks like Pep Guardiola has his eye on more Monegasque talent.
Left-back Benjamin Mendy has been heavily linked, as has converted central midfielder, Fabinho, but the name on everyone's lips is 18-year-old striking sensation, Kylian Mbappé.
In his first Ligue 1 campaign Mbappé, who was included on our list of the ten best teenage footballers in Europe, has finished with 15 goals and 11 assists, making him a rumoured transfer target for Real Madrid, Chelsea, Liverpool and every other club with money in their pockets.
The world scoffed when Manchester United spent £89million on Paul Pogba last summer, but now Guardiola and City want to make Mbappé the most expensive footballer on the planet, tabling a bid work £113.5million for the forward.
Contracted until 2019, Monaco are looking to extend Mbappé's deal this summer, convincing him to stay will be one of their main objectives.
The champions are set to lose a number of players this summer, Silva has already left, Mendy, Fabinho, Tiemoué Bakayoko and Thomas Lemar are heavily linked with departures, Monaco will be trying to do everything in their power to keep the 18-year-old at the Stade Louis II.
Monaco will continue to sell this summer
Playing in Monaco's favour is the talent they are willing to sell before they would entertain bids for the forward. They could make around €150million from the players mentioned above, giving them enough capital to offer Mbappé a bumper new deal.
Leonardo Jardim hopes that Monaco can spearhead their attack with veteran and re-born Colombian, Radamel Falcao and the young Frenchman. Continually mentioned in the same breath as Thierry Henry, the France international has quickly developed from a tricky winger to an all-encompassing centre-forward.
The comparisons with the Arsenal legend are not unfounded, not even lazy, there are so many elements of his game that are similar.
Both are right-footed and are blessed with exceptional pace. They both enjoy drifting to the left-flank, cutting inside to finish in the far corner.
Mbappé has already shown an ability to finish with his left-foot and his head, he’s stronger than Henry was at the same age and definitely more of a centre-forward.
Henry developed that side of his game under Wenger, but the young Monaco man, who stole the Arsenal legend’s record as the club’s youngest ever goal-scorer last season with a goal against Troyes, has already shown proficiency in leading the line.
Success for France
— Matt Spiro (@mattspiro) February 13, 2017
Everyone expected great things from the teenager this season after he was key in helping France win the Under-19 European Championships last summer, but Monaco coach, Leonardo Jardim, kept the cotton wool on the forward, easing his way into the first-team.
“He's one of our most promising academy players and his emergence shows we're doing good work,” said Monaco vice president Vadim Vasilyev. “This also demonstrates that young players are given a chance here at Monaco. I believe that at Monaco we have the best sporting project in Europe for young players.”
The Monaco youth product, as well as missing three games with a head knock, started eight of the opening 14 games on the bench, coming on as a sub three times.
Every now and again, the Portuguese coach would give Ligue 1 fans a glimpse of his quality, but it wasn’t until the fixtures piled up that France youth international was allowed to spread his wings.
Like playing for Arsenal
— Julien Laurens (@LaurensJulien) February 12, 2017
Playing in a 4-4-2, similar to how Henry played with Arsenal under Wenger, the teenager plays in the front two. He has the power and pace to push wide, taking defenders with him and then burst past opponents.
The style of the principality club suits him perfectly. Although they are great in possession, they love to hit teams on the break and Mbappé will hug the shoulder of the last defender, always looking to burst in behind.
Recently in the league, Montpellier were made to pay for a moment's lapse in concentration, Mbappé pounced down the left flank, like the Henry of old, cutting inside onto his favoured right-foot, he finished with the composure regularly shown by France’s all-time leading goal-scorer.
Back in February, the secret was out for good when the 18-year-old put FC Metz to the sword, scoring a superb hat-trick in Ligue 1.
He became the youngest player since Jeremy Menez in 2005 to score three times in a league game, sealing the belief that this starlet is the real deal.
That has only continued to snowball. 26 goals and 14 assists in all competitions, involved in a goal every 62 minutes is a phenomenal return for any player, not to mention someone enjoying his first full campaign.
Mbappé helped Monaco knock City and Dortmund out of the Champions League group stages, before being thwarted by Gigi Buffon in the Juventus goal.
Future is bright for Mbappé
— Kris ?? ⭐⭐ (@AFCfreddie8) February 11, 2017
Henry flourished at Monaco before moving to Juventus and eventually Arsenal and the new teenager on the block is already showing a much more rounded game than his idol.
“Of course he's a childhood hero,” said the man of the hour when asked about Henry. “He congratulated me on winning the Euros. He said he watched and that it was good and that I have to keep going.”
Mbappé has the footwork to beat defenders off the dribble, or glide past with strength and pace. Plus, he has the movement off the ball to find gaps and time dangerous runs into the box.
This kid has the world at his feet and after losing Anthony Martial to Manchester United earlier than expected, the club will want to do everything in their power to keep him at the Stade Louis II and away from clubs like Manchester City and Real Madrid.
Cristiano Ronaldo was Mbappé's idol growing up, and the lure to play with his hero might be too much, but Monaco will be hoping they can keep that dream at bay, at least until 2018.