we’re looking at a future GOAT

March 25, 2023, Rome, France: Kylian Mbappe of France celebrates his second goal during the UEFA Euro 2024, European Qualifiers, Group B football match between France and Netherlands on March 24, 2023 at Stade de France in Saint-Denis near Paris , France Credit: Alamy

March 25, 2023, Rome, France: Kylian Mbappe of France celebrates his second goal during the UEFA Euro 2024, European Qualifiers, Group B football match between France and Netherlands on March 24, 2023 at Stade de France in Saint-Denis near Paris , France Credit: Alamy

As a new chapter begins for France and Kylian Mbappe, the familiar sense of off-field turmoil reared his ugly neck.

It has been reported in French media that the more experienced and veteran Antoine Griezmann felt angered by Didier Deschamps’ decision to name 24-year-old Mbappe to succeed Hugo Lloris as Les Bleus captain.

“Given his longevity, I expected Griezmann to be named. It surprised me, he’s Didier’s most important man, the one he relies on the most,” former France international Robert Pires told Mundo Deportivo.

“It’s a lack of respect for Antoine, although I have nothing against Kylian. We mustn’t forget what Antoine did at the last World Cup, where he was our best player.

“It would have been wiser to appoint Griezmann captain now and hand the armband to Kylian in two years.”

The captaincy dispute dominated the conversation in France, with Emmanuel Petit backing Deschamps’ decision and firing shots towards Griezmann.

Meanwhile, the ever-reliable Raphael Varane has announced his retirement from international football at the age of 29.

The Manchester United centre-back, who was last seen in Les Bleus colors limping off the pitch after literally giving it his all in the World Cup final, offered a healthy dose of perspective on the toll juggling of elite club football and international Soccer player’s body.

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“The calendar is already more than full, the players are overworked and it’s only going to get worse,” Varane told French GQ magazine.

“I fear that we will see much shorter careers and that players will have to give up the French team very early because what we are asking for today, physically or mentally, is just beyond the limits. The fact that I announced the end of my national team career and didn’t hide the reasons why, resonated with many players.

“Believe me, all internationals who play in Europe and never stop are in bad form for several months or get injured. The young players starting there in the French team that were at the World Cup will have to make a lot of sacrifices if they want to stay at the top for ten years. And it might be harder than what I’ve experienced.”

gulp. Good luck Kylian.

At just 24, he made 67 appearances for France. Three major tournaments. Over 300 games for Monaco and PSG.

Witnessing Mbappe’s rise was like watching former Ballon d’Or winners Ronaldo Fenomeno or Michael Owen if they had never suffered such debilitating injuries. Their stories are cautionary tales about what exactly can happen when bodies are pushed beyond their limits.

Any true lover of football will touch wood and pray that Mbappe – so electrifying, so cheerful – doesn’t meet the same fate.

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    Credit: Alamy

Credit: Alamy

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So far so good, though.

“I spoke to Antoine because he was disappointed and honestly it’s understandable,” Mbappe said.

“I told him I might have reacted the same way. I told him that as long as I’m captain and he’s vice-captain, I won’t be superior to him.

“He has an experience of playing for France that I don’t have. He is well regarded and loved by the whole team so it would be a shame if we didn’t benefit from his experience and zest for life.”

After demonstrating the diplomacy it takes to captain one of the better-known international dressing rooms, Mbappe then let his football do the talking.

It took him just two minutes to herald France’s new dawn with the most iconic of all assists for Griezmann.

Having been perfectly within his rights to have a shot on goal himself, Mbappe noticed Griezmann firing into the box and leveled it instead. Boom, Tor – what was that noise?

From there, Mbappe put the Netherlands to the sword and scored twice in France’s first Euro 2024 qualifier.

It was a perfect evening for France with the new skipper who had given him the platform to perform at his brilliant best.

They finished off a 4-0 win over their neighbors in some style at the Stade de France, with Mbappe producing a brilliant solo performance in the final minutes.

With that performance, striker overtook Karim Benzema to move up to fifth in France’s all-time goalscoring list. When Olivier Giroud passed Thierry Henry to become France’s all-time top scorer in December, the milestone came with the feeling that the 36-year-old was simply keeping the seat warm.

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Mbappe has scored 38 goals for his country. When Lionel Messi turned 24 in 2011, he had just 17 for Argentina. Cristiano Ronaldo, the all-time leading goalscorer in the history of international football, had scored 21 goals for Portugal by that age.

Ronaldo is also the all-time top goalscorer in European Cup history. But by the time he was Mbappe’s age, he had only scored 11 Champions League goals. France’s new captain, already PSG’s all-time top scorer, has already scored up to 40 goals in Europe’s most prestigious cup competition.

Mbappe has already won the World Cup. He scored a hat-trick in another final, narrowly losing on penalties in which he also scored on penalties. He has a good chance of playing three more tournaments and needs just five more goals to surpass Miroslav Klose’s record for the biggest stage ever.

The cold hard numbers, black and white, are a way of judging Mbappe’s path until one day he is considered in the GOAT debate.

Another is to just watch it and enjoy it. Watch as he scares defenders by charging at them with the ball at his feet. Then try to tell us that one day Mbappe will not be one of the greats.

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