The best for 22 years. The best since Ronaldo.
Kylian Mbappé’s breakthrough year is riddled with records and punctuated by obscene numbers. Such is the volume of the goals he scored, the assists he provided and the milestones he reached, it seems bizarre to even call it his breakthrough year. But it was. And it was phenomenal.
So phenomenal was it in fact, the only teenager to score more goals in a single calendar year was the boy literally nicknamed “The Phenomenon”. Ronaldo scored 38 goals across all competitions whilst playing for PSV in 1995 and no other teenager has broken the 30-goal mark since. Here’s who have come the closest:
Top-scoring players under the age of 21 in Europe's top 10 leagues by calendar year since 1995 sorted by most goals:
Can we please realise how good this is. pic.twitter.com/JffTytfjFZ
— Jake Entwistle (@JakeEntwistle) December 20, 2017
Firstly, by ‘under the age of 21’ we mean a player who was not 21 for any part of the year in question. Even then, I was originally looking for goalscoring exploits by teenagers, players not turning 20 in any part of the year.
But the fact that Kylian Mbappé’s 32 goals started to eclipse those posted by the likes of Raúl, Fernando Torres and Sergio Agüero despite those mentioned turning 20, it seemed only right to expand the criteria to illustrate how sensational Mbappé’s output was.
The now 19-year-old was the only player to score 20+ goals and register 10+ assists in Ligue 1 in 2017, finishing the year with 20 goals and 11 assists to his name. He scored 12 and assisted three in 19 games for Monaco with the last eight of each coming in his 14 appearances for PSG this season.
Alongside Radamel Falcao, Kylian Mbappé was the outlet upfront. Inhabiting the left-hand channel, the comparisons with Thierry Henry flooded in due to his preference for that particular space and the way he would curl the ball into the net after racing away from defenders.
18:31: Kylian Mbappé signs for PSG. ?
21:31: Kylian Mbappé scores his first ever goal for France. ⚽️
Not a bad evening. ?? pic.twitter.com/jcCCkNiVib
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) August 31, 2017
After his soon-to-be £166m transfer to PSG, his place on the right to accommodate Neymar and Cavani saw his creative output increase, becoming more fleet-footed winger than out-and-out striker. His transition from hanging on the last man in a front-two to a wide forward in a front-three was seamless. Mbappé has the necessary qualities to thrive in both.
The matter of lifting a league title in between all that deserves a mention, as does his place in the Team of the Year. But despite his domestic dominance, perhaps unsurprisingly, the most impressive portion of his goals were scored in the Champions League; 31.25% of them to be exact.
Kylian Mbappé’s ten goals in the competition in 2017 was a tally bettered only by Cristiano Ronaldo—the man who this year scored the most in a single calendar year the competition had ever seen (19) and once covered Kylian Mbappé’s bedroom walls in poster form.
It all gets more ridiculous when you then consider that not only did six of Kylian Mbappé’s goals come in the knockout stages of the competition, but that each time he found the back of the net, he seemed to rewrite Champions League history.
• First player to score in their first four knockout games
• Youngest scorer in both legs of a quarter-final
• Youngest scorer in a semi-final
• Youngest player to score 10 goals
• Most goals as a teenager
Kylian Mbappé is trying to rewrite Champions League history. ? pic.twitter.com/RQvouVVVUr
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 12, 2017
The first record on that list does not get near the recognition it deserves: no other player has managed to achieve it in the history of the Champions League and yet Kylian Mbappé did so at 18 years, three months and 30 days old. His movement was devastating, his finishing was unerring.
Kylian Mbappé’s performances for Monaco in the Champions League were what piqued everyone’s interest. His goalscoring exploits in the competition and the aforementioned records he set were the perfect riposte to any non-believer using the perceived lack of quality in Ligue 1 as an ‘excuse’ for his output. The Champions League gave Kylian Mbappé the platform to announce himself to the world. He did so and never looked back.
Kylian Mbappe's breakthrough season:
Ligue 1 title ?
Champions League semi-finalist ?
Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year ?
26 goals ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/zdyYPD3A9x
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 17, 2017
By May, Kylian Mbappé was the Best Young Player in Ligue 1. By October, he was the Best Young Player in Europe. By December, he was the seventh Best Player in the World.
Finishing above the likes of Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne, as well as teammates past and present such as Edinson Cavani and Radamel Falcao seemed absurd at first. But looking back at Kylian Mbappé’s 2017, what he achieved individually and collectively with both Monaco and PSG was superior to most.
Kylian Mbappé across all club competitions in 2017:
Quite simply: Phenomenal. pic.twitter.com/TH4jmtdMDg
— Scouted Football (@ScoutedFtbl) December 20, 2017
Yes, it is difficult to say he is a better player than all those he finished ahead of, but after comparing his numbers to both iterations of Ronaldo throughout this article, it’s just as hard to say he isn’t.
Whether you agree or not, the one objective truth, the one conclusion that can be made from Kylian Mbappé’s year is that it is the best return from a teenager since one of the greatest young goalscorers in history.
It's easy to see why Kylian Mbappé is the 2017 Golden Boy. ?https://t.co/7Yj0LLWluE
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 23, 2017
Kylian Mbappé’s year was not just ‘phenomenal’ in the sense it was abnormal or exceptional, it was phenomenal in the sense that it was like Ronaldo.
Here’s to 2018 being just as special.