It may only be the beginning of April, but 2017 has been a whirlwind year for Kylian Mbappe. He has graduated from being a young striker of terrific promise into a France international forward and has established himself as one of the greatest prospects in the game by scoring twice against Manchester City to push his Monaco team through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
No longer is Radamel Falcao the hottest name on the principality side’s books, it is that of 18-year-old Mbappe, upon whom so much is expected ahead of his first major final on Saturday, when he will be aligned against Paris Saint-Germain in Lyon’s Parc OL in the Coupe de la Ligue.
Barely a month ago, he was a virtual unknown to those who do not follow Ligue 1 but now, it seems, he already stands on the cusp of being a star.
Thierry Henry offers a natural point of comparison due to his style and background, and the France and Arsenal legend simply offered “ooh là là” in response to the teenager’s international debut, which made him Les Bleus’ youngest player since 1955.
“We know that sooner or later he will end up at Real Madrid, Barcelona or a club of that calibre,” club-mate Fabinho confessed to Chuteira FC.
There can be little doubt that the versatile Brazilian is correct, but for the good of the player, he would be smart to stay with his formative club for at least one further season.
“I think you mustn't leave too soon. Things go well, but the day when it goes less well, that's the problem,” the forward, who achieved great things in Ligue 1 as a youngster with Lyon before moving to Real Madrid as a 21-year-old, having played four full seasons of first-team football, told RMC.
"He's 18, how do you handle it when it doesn't go as well, when people don't speak as well about you, when you're put under pressure?”
Even Benzema, who was older and moving to Spain off the back of scoring 37 league goals in his two previous campaigns, confessed the move was tough.
“Football is really hard, especially at big clubs. I arrived at Madrid at 21. I had already done a lot of things at Lyon, but when I got here I got a slap in the face,” he said.
“My first year was too difficult. You're far from your family, it's not the same.”
The Real Madrid forward has admitted that he has never watched Mbappe play, but indicated that even for a “phenomenon” such a transfer could be difficult.
Anthony Martial has shown how complicated it can be making the transition from a team like Monaco to a true super club, in his case Manchester United. Even the great Henry found life at Juventus not to his taste before a move to Arsenal transformed his career, but a wrong move could see Mbappe’s progress stall.
At this juncture, there is little need to depart Stade Louis II. For all his undoubted talents, he is still not at a level from which he could walk into the starting XI of a Real Madrid or Barcelona – the stature of clubs that could realistically afford him.
Counterpart Ousmane Dembele had the luxury of being able to leave France last summer to make a more modest leap with Borussia Dortmund, where he has excelled. Given the hype surrounding Mbappe, making that middle step will be impossible for him, with his price tag spiralling upwards on an almost daily basis.
“The most important thing for him is to stay at Monaco for another two seasons minimum because he’s young and he needs to play,” Robert Pires affirmed. “He’s got not need to leave to a club like Real Madrid, for example, which is one of the biggest in the world but where there is a great deal of pressure. He needs stability.”
Monaco can still offer him that – and in a supportive, familiar environment where he will play every week at a high level. Next season they will again be in the Champions League and, given the depth of talent on their roster, they can expect to challenge Paris Saint-Germain once again for domestic honours. Only this time, they will do so with Mbappe at the vanguard.
The 18-year-old has already shown that he has a cool head for making such tough decisions. Zinedine Zidane famously gave him a tour of Real Madrid’s facilities as a youngster but he turned down that move in favour of Monaco.
“I have a clear idea of what I want to do,” the youngster explained to RMC. “I’ve had a plan for my career since I was young. My family and my club have prepared me for all this. I know where I’m going and I won’t let anything disturb me.”
Where he is going is to the top, but how quickly he gets there will be dictated by his decisions in the next five months. Everything has gone at breakneck speed for him thus far, but now would appear to be the time for patience.