This article was first published in Champions Journal. Read the original article here.
“We’ll be back” was his terse statement on Twitter following the penalty shoot-out loss to Argentina, and certainly no one doubts that of the man himself. Not least with plenty of silverware still up for grabs this season, including the one major prize that has eluded his grasp so far. There is no time to dwell on Qatar when Paris face another journey into the Champions League knockout stage, starting with a round of 16 tie against Bayern München – the team that denied Mbappé and Co in the 2020 final.
“I’ve been lucky enough to play in every Champions League round, from the group stage to the final, so I’ve experienced every possible feeling, except the final win,” says the forward, who ended the group stage as joint-top scorer with seven goals. “I just have one feeling left to experience, and it really builds your character.”
Experience is a commodity that Mbappé has already amassed in spades, having made his Champions League debut in September 2016 as an explosive teenager in an exciting young Monaco team. Billed as a name for the future, the French prodigy has since lived up to his promise and then some, morphing into a thoroughbred world-class performer who has added maturity and composure to his pace, technique and finishing acumen.
So what does he think are his best outings in Europe’s premier club competition? It’s tough to narrow down, bit he takes his pick here and attributes one word to each of them.
“Manchester City versus Monaco in one word? Discovery. It was my first start in the Champions League, and the first leg of the round of 16 in the knockout phase against [Pep] Guardiola’s City. It was a unique moment with the club where I started out, and for whom I have a great deal of respect, admiration and gratitude. I would love it if everyone could experience that with the club where they developed as a player.”
“I’d just joined a new club, with an expensive transfer fee associated with me. It was my first European challenge at the Parc des Princes. We were up against a heavyweight team and winning at home sent a message. We really put in a good performance.”
“Revenge, because I remember that I started on the bench. I was a bit frustrated. I was coming back from injury so that was normal, but when you’re competitive and dream of playing in the Champions League, every game you miss is painful. So I really came on with this mindset of wanting to perform well and show that I had my place in this side, even though I was coming back from injury and lacking pace.”
“Transformation, because that night I think my status shifted from very good to top-level player. It was an important game at the Camp Nou, with a number of players missing. We were underdogs but, more than just my own performance, it was an accomplished team performance. We imposed our game and I scored a hat-trick at the Camp Nou.”