Mbappé praises 'legend' Ronaldo and urges France to support Griezmann in 'tough spell' at Euro 2024

HAMBURG, Germany (AP) — Kylian Mbappé described Cristiano Ronaldo as a “footballing legend” and “one of a kind” as the superstars prepare to meet in the European Championship quarterfinals.

For many, the major subplot of the Portugal vs. France match in Hamburg on Friday is the head to head between their captains.

Mbappé has previously called Ronaldo his idol and he spoke in glowing terms about the 39-year-old striker who has said he is playing in his last European Championship.

“Everyone knows just how much I admire Cristiano Ronaldo as a player,” Mbappé said on Thursday in the pre-match news conference. “Over time, I have been lucky to brush shoulders with him, to get to know and have a chat with him. We are still in contact. He is always helping me — he keeps up with what is going on in my life and he gives me tips.

“It’s an honor for me, especially when we think about what he has done for the footballing world. Regardless of what has happened before or what happens after, he will be a footballing legend.”

Mbappé recently signed for Real Madrid, where Ronaldo starred from 2009-18, and now he could bring an end to his rival’s European Championship career.

So, does he see it as a “passing-of-the-baton” occasion?

“No, I think that he is one of kind,” Mbappé said. “There is only one Cristiano Ronaldo, there will only ever be one.

“I am following my own path. My dream of playing at Real Madrid is coming a reality. I hope that I will also be able to mark football but I am not going to write the next chapter of Cristiano Ronaldo’s story. I hope I will be able to be one of a kind at Real Madrid and be completely different.”

Mbappé, who was the top scorer at the 2022 World Cup with eight goals, has netted only once in three games at Euro 2024 — from the penalty spot — as the French struggle to get their attacking game flowing.

Indeed, no France player has scored from open play, the team's other two goals being own-goals.

Mbappé said he was having to modify his style of play for his country because of the different personnel behind him.

“A forward needs to adapt to all the different situations, to teammates, to different player profiles on the pitch,” he said. "We had different players when I first started — Paul Pogba, for example, in midfield and with him I knew I needed to get my head down and run. I call for the ball and the ball is at my feet.

“Now, it's different. The idea is about analyzing the type of players you are playing with. With the players we have, maybe we can't play into space because it isn't their type of playing style. But if there are spaces, I love eating up those spaces.”

Among those being called out for particular criticism for France's lack of a cutting edge in attack is Antoine Griezmann, who has played in two positions — central midfield and on the right wing — so far and was even dropped for the group closer against Poland.

Mbappé said Griezmann has “been in the firing line” and deserved better after playing 133 times for France and being a key member of the team that won the World Cup in 2018 and reached the final in 2022.

“It is maybe a tough spell at the moment and it's a shame we are kicking him while he is down,” Mbappé said. “It doesn't sit well with me — he is one of the best players in modern French football.”


AP Euro 2024: