Kylian Mbappe modelling the new PSG away shirt. Kylian Mbappe meeting fans and sponsors in China. Kylian Mbappe talking to the media in the news conference before the Trophee des Champions against Rennes last weekend (2-1). Kylian Mbappe scoring goals for fun this summer. Kylian Mbappe here, Kylian Mbappe there.
PSG's season hasn't even officially started yet, but there has been only one player in the limelight so far for PSG. The French prodigy, who will turn 21 at the end of December, is PSG at the moment. While Neymar is engulfed in myriad sagas surrounding his future at the club and a string of injuries, "KMB" is flying and has overtaken him as not just the face of the club, but also as its best and most important player.
This is what Mbappe wanted. As much as he likes Neymar as a friend and as a teammate, his ambition was always to be the boss. As he always says, age means nothing in football. If you're good enough, you play, no matter how old you are. In the same vein, if you have everything to be the boss, then you become the boss.
While in China during PSG's preseason tour, Thomas Tuchel and Mbappe had many chats. About life, about tactics, about the squad, about the club, about the future and about his position. It's in sharp contrast to last summer. Back then, Tuchel could not have been clearer: "The star of this team is Neymar." The German manager repeatedly harped that Neymar was the key player in his system and PSG's unquestioned leader.
The Brazilian will feature on Sunday evening in Les Parisiens' league opener against Nimes at Parc des Princes. He is fit and has trained really well this week. He might not be totally 100 percent physically after a short preseason but he wants to play. Mentally, he might not be totally focussed to play either, considering he still wants to leave the club and recent revelations indicate that Real Madrid have again become an option for him. But there is still a possibility that he will stay at PSG this season, so Tuchel is treating him like a full member of his squad -- which he still is, for now.
Whether he stays this season or not, Neymar's time in Paris is coming to an end. He wants to leave and the club wants to sell him. That has left the primary leadership role vacant and naturally Mbappe has taken up the mantle. No one else in the squad can come close to matching his aura and celebrity status around the world.
"Mbappe mania" is massive. Since the World Cup last summer and his record-breaking season of 33 goals in 29 games, the Frenchman has reached another dimension. Big sponsors are queuing to associate their brand with him. Cleverly, he chooses carefully whom he wants to work for: Dior, Hublot, Nike, Bulk (for the Asian market) and Good Gout, a French brand selling organic food for babies. As always with him, everything is thought through, pondered and calculated. Now PSG are banking on his star power, too.
In many ways, Mbappe is the perfect story for PSG to sell worldwide: He's a born-and-bred Parisian genius, already among the top five players in the world at 20 years old. He is a world champion. He sells more shirts than Neymar or anyone else in France. And PSG know they need to capitalise on him quickly because very soon (A year? Two maybe? Three if they are lucky?) he will be off to somewhere bigger.
For now, he watched with a lot of interest the business done by his club this summer. He welcomed the arrival of Idrissa Gueye from Everton, the defensive midfielder whom PSG desperately needed, and was not happy back in January when the club failed to sign the Senegalese. Pablo Sarabia and Ander Herrera have also arrived in midfield and Sarabia in particular has really impressed Mbappe. At the back, Abdou Diallo, a player of great potential who Mbappe knows well, has joined from Borussia Dortmund.
Some have left the club: Kevin Trapp, Dani Alves, Gianluigi Buffon, Adrien Rabiot and a few youngsters, too. A lot will depend on Neymar staying or not, but one thing is for sure: PSG will once again rely heavily on their French superstar this season.
With his new status, increased leadership within the team and his role as PSG's main selling point to fans around the world, Mbappe has what he always craved. Even before the Neymar saga started, when he received his Ligue 1 Player of the Year award on May 19, Mbappe declared that he wanted "more responsibilities in Paris or somewhere else."
That night, a very influential agent was telling everyone who wanted to listen that Mbappe and his dad Wilfried were now the new bosses at PSG. He was right. Since then, his position is going from strength to strength week after week. Leonardo, the club's returning sporting director, wants to build a close relationship with Mbappe Jr. and Sr., and Kylian is not shy about publicly letting people know what he thinks, even if it means taunting the sporting director. "If more new players arrive, we would be all for it. Strengthening the squad more would be great," he said before the game against Rennes. His voice and his opinion now count. His goals will count even more this season.
In Ligue 1, the opposition, once again, seem far too weak to compete with the reigning champions. Last year's toughest competition Lyon (Tanguy Ndombele, Ferland Mendy, Nabil Fekir) and Lille (Nicolas Pepe, Thiago Mendes, Rafael Leao) have sold their best players. They have signed capable replacements, but they will not have the similar instant impact on their teams. Lyon also have a new first-time manager in Sylvinho.
Further down, Marseille also have a new boss in Andre Villas-Boas but failed to strengthen their squad and could still lose some more key players such as Florian Thauvin. Finally, Monaco are rebuilding again after a nightmare 2018-19 in which they finished 17th in the table. For Mbappe, one objective is to regain the treble lost last season by winning the two domestic cups. But the primary one will again be the Champions League. He has to do better in that competition, as do Tuchel and the club as a whole.
This is a huge season for Mbappe. Now that he is the boss, he has to deliver like a boss and not just in Ligue 1. In the Champions League, where it really matters, he will have to lead by example and ensure his team wins. The pressure on his shoulders is huge. He says he's ready for it. Soon we will see.