Belfast Telegraph

Mbappe can underline billing as the rising star of football in Moscow showpiece

The teenager has lit up the finals and will be key to France winning their second World Cup on Sunday.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi may be locked in a constant game of thrones struggle to determine the king of football – but a pretender to the crown has emerged in the shape of France forward Kylian Mbappe.

Already commanding a transfer fee greater than any single figure paid to prise Ronaldo away from Sporting, Manchester United or Real Madrid, the world’s most expensive teenager can now cement his early status as a French football superstar.

Born in Paris 161 days after Didier Deschamps lifted the World Cup trophy aloft at the Stade de France in 1998, Mbappe heads into Sunday’s showpiece final against Croatia as one of the stars of the current tournament.

The 19-year-old joined hometown club Paris Saint Germain from Monaco after spending last season on loan at the capital club – lifting a domestic treble in the process.

Mbappe started out from simple roots and found his way into game with local side AS Bondy, eventually moving south to join Monaco.

He took his time to settle into the World Cup but scored the only goal of the game as France beat Peru 1-0 in the group stages.

As World Cup tournaments progress, so the cream will eventually rise to the top and Mbappe’s blistering brace against Argentina to secure a place in the quarter-finals saw the potential crowning of a new superstar.

He now seems destined to start a battle for supremacy with current club-mate Neymar, one that could see similar arguments and differences of opinions from those in the Ronaldo or Messi camps across the last decade.

The flicks and tricks and impudence of youth have all been a joy to behold in a World Cup where individual skill has again shone through.

Zinedine Zidane was already established on the world stage before his two goals secured France’s first – and to this date – only World Cup title with a 3-0 victory over Brazil two decades ago.

He was 26 at the time, at the peak of his powers.

Mbappe is still developing, still learning and still improving, but the teenager born into humble beginnings in a Parisien suburb could soon be the toast of the nation if he can emulate Zidane.

It is a tough challenge but one that a boy who grew up with posters of his hero – one Cristiano Ronaldo – adorning his bedroom wall, is more than capable of rising to.

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