Paris: France captain Kylian Mbappe was prouder of his team’s achievement than his own personal milestone as Didier Deschamps’ side ran riot in a record 14-0 win over Gibraltar on Saturday.
Mbappe’s hat-trick in Nice saw him become the youngest player to reach 300 goals in Europe’s top five leagues and international games combined, at age 24 years, 10 months and 29 days.
On a night when he captained his side to a historic win, the biggest ever victory in a European qualifier and France’s biggest ever win, Mbappe was keen to focus on the team’s achievement.
“We need to highlight the collective victory,” Mbappe said.
“There have been a lot of talented France teams, to beat this record for the biggest win is something special. A team best is much more valuable than a personal best.
“The 300 goals scored in my career is a new milestone for me but it takes a back seat because the team put in an extraordinary performance today.” Lionel Messi hit his 300th goal at age 25 years, four months and three days, but his former team mate at Paris St Germain knows he still has a long way to go to reach the career numbers of both Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
“Some players scored 800, others 850, 300 next to it, it’s ridiculous! It’s a step for me and I want to continue to be decisive for my national team and my club,” Mbappe said.
Goal No 300 was worthy of the milestone. Mbappe picked up a pass from Youssouf Fofana, spotted the Gibraltar keeper off his line and hit a splendid lob from 40 metres out. He said the keeper’s position was something he had been looking at during the game.
“I’d been looking at the opposing goalkeeper for 20-25 minutes, I could see him very advanced, I didn’t understand why. After that, it’s instinct.
“When Youssouf gets the ball, I know straight away that I’m going to do that. Today it worked out for me, maybe another time, it didn’t.” It was a ruthless performance from France, scoring seven goals in each half, against a Gibraltar side who were 3-0 behind and down to 10 men after 18 minutes.
“We wanted to go down in history and we did it collectively,” Mbappe said.
“We had the objective of beating the record for the biggest win, the coach told us that there was something to go for, that’s why we had this seriousness throughout the game.” Mbappe not only scored three goals but also provided three assists on a night when he looked happy to provide the goals for his team mates to ensure they achieved the record win.
“The armband forces you to change, if you don’t want to change, you’re not cut out to be captain,” Mbappe said.
“When I wasn’t captain, I had a slightly more individualistic vision of my game, of my score. Now I’m captain and I have to think about others first and foremost.” Mbappe also overtook Antoine Griezmann to move into third place on France’s all-time scorers list on 46 goals and he is now only five behind Thierry Henry in second.
“What this kid is doing is really out of this world,” said Henry, who is now in charge of leading the new generation of France’s players as coach of the Under-21 team. “It’s just unbelievable.”
Mbappe was often compared to Henry earlier in his career. Both attended France’s Clairefontaine academy before playing as left wingers at Monaco, where each won the French league titles as a teenager. Mbappe then replicated another of Henry’s accomplishments when he won the 2018 World Cup in his first major tournament with France. Henry won the 1998 tournament.
Compared with Pele
Mbappe has also been compared with Brazil great Pelé for his precocity. But in terms of style, with his devastating speed and skills, he is closer to Henry.
“He’s a goalscorer, he delivers assists, he knows how to do everything,” Henry said. “Of course, there’s room for improvement, but that’s not the point.”
With his 17th career hat-trick, Mbappe brought his season tally to 21 goals in 19 matches. It was the PSG star’s 46th goal in 74 international appearances. He is now just five goals behind Henry on France’s all-time scoring list and 10 off teammate Olivier Giroud’s national record total.
The exact number of goals in Pele’s career will forever be a topic for debate. He often said one of the reasons he should be considered the greatest player of all time was because of his feat of scoring more than 1,000 goals. But many dispute his count because Pelé included goals scored in friendlies or matches against semi-professional or even amateur teams.
When asked how many goals Mbappe could reach, Henry jokingly hinted at the 1,000 mark, then said “it’s up for him to decide.”
“He’s a guy who breathes soccer, who prepares himself well, who doesn’t do everything and anything, his professionalism and desire to play are always there,” Henry said. “300 goals? There are some who haven’t even managed that in training.”