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When Kylian Mbappé completes a move to Paris Saint‑Germain which values him as the second most expensive player ever, he will return to the city where it all began. Just over a dozen years ago a young Mbappé begged his father to sign him up at the local club of the suburb where they lived in the French capital.
The team was non-league AS Bondy, where Wilfried Mbappé, a former player, was the coach. Wilfried was reluctant to bring his son under his wing there, fearing he would not be objective. Yet such was Kylian’s persistence that Wilfried gave in to the five-year-old and the boy made such a first impression that he was promoted to play above his age group. When the elite academy INF Clairefontaine offered Kylian a scholarship a few years later he was again pushed up, this time among the best prospects of his generation.
Single-mindedness, as well as talent, has put Mbappé on the path which leaves him poised to join PSG on loan from Monaco with an agreement to make that a permanent deal worth up to €180m (£167m) next summer. At Clairefontaine Mbappé sometimes felt the training had not been enough and he would secretly practice behind the dormitories, deep into the night, phone in hand to light his trail. Even his free time there was filled with football. He was known to watch four games in a row, often featuring Real Madrid, who around that time invited him to Spain and asked Zinedine Zidane to give him a tour of their facilities.
Although the adolescent Mbappé hid the extra training from his supervisors, he could do nothing to prevent scouts from across Europe spotting his ability. There was the speed at which he glided past opponents, the ease with which he cut inside from the left wing and scored from anywhere in the box. There was also, his coach at the time recalls, a signature move that could one day define his spontaneity in the way Zidane’s turn defined his genius.
“His dummies,” says Jean-Claude Lafargue, academy director at INF Clairefontaine. “With both feet. They’re the same now as when he was 12. He seems to go one way and hop, suddenly he’s accelerated the other.”
Mbappé’s family, cautious about an early move abroad, refused all advances from clubs and agents, letting the prospect hone the skills that last season made him the youngest ever scorer in a Champions League semi-final. Mbappé turned down offers from Real Madrid and PSG and settled on joining Monaco in July 2013, where he stole Thierry Henry’s records as the club’s youngest player to appear and score in Ligue 1.
The greater spotlight and pressure may be on Neymar but Mbappé faces expectations as never before. He deserves reasonable patience but it would seem unwise to bet against him stepping up to the challenge, as he has done ever since that first practice session at AS Bondy.

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