WHEN searching for the next Thierry Henry, there are only two men that are allowed to pass judgement, and Arsène Wenger has already given 18-year-old wonderkid, Kylian Mbappe, his seal of approval.
Football Whispers take a closer look at the teenager that the whole of Europe are watching very closely.
Wenger told French TV: “Mbappe is exactly, well not exactly Thierry Henry, but it is true that he has similar qualities and the talent is similar, the potential is similar.”
The other man, is Henry himself, and after following a similar upbringing the teenage forward is now breaking all the Arsenal legends records for AS Monaco.
Henry told French radio station RMC: “When I first saw him play against Tottenham in the Europa League, as soon as I saw him, I knew he was a player. I said: ‘who is he?’
“At 16 and a half [years old], he was asking for the ball, he could dribble, he was having shots, he was winning the ball back and he loved the ball.”
That was during Monaco’s 4-1 defeat to Spurs at White Hart Lane, with the young forward a glimmer of light in an otherwise poor performance from the Ligue 1 side.
Before the trip to London, Mbappe had only made a two minutes cameo off the bench in the league draw with SM Caen, then with his team losing, Leonardo Jardim unleashed him for the last 34 minutes of the 4-1 defeat.
Mbappe helped set up Monaco’s consolation goal, and certainly stood out from the crowd.
Henry continued: “The desire was there. Mbappe has something special, let’s be honest. If he keeps his head on his shoulders, it will come on its own.”
Comparisons to France’s all-time leading goal-scorer are impossible to avoid. Mbappe was also born in the suburbs of Paris, moving to the Clairefontaine academy at an early age.
Just two months after the Spurs defeat, the youngster came off the bench against Troyes with 17 minutes to go. Into stoppage time and Monaco attacked down the left.
Sensing his moment, Mbappe sprinted to keep up with play and his effort was rewarded, picked out inside the area to seal the 3-1 win and score his first goal for the club.
At just 17 years and two months old, that finish broke Henry’s long-standing record.
“He’s one of our most promising academy players and his emergence shows we’re doing good work,” said AS Monaco vice president Vadim Vasilyev.
“This also demonstrates that young players are given a chance here at Monaco. I believe that at Monaco we have the best sporting project in Europe for young players.”
During the summer, the forward became a national star as his performances helped France win the Under-19 European Championships. A double and an assist against Portugal in the semi-finals was the standout moment.
This season began with huge anticipation over what the young forward could achieve, but Monaco boss Jardim was quick to pour water on the hysteria.
Mbappe, as well as missing three games with a head knock, started eight of the opening 14 games on the bench, coming on as a sub three times.
Every now and again, the Portuguese coach would let him off the leash and the Frenchman would show his qualities.
Playing in a 4-4-2, similar to how Henry played with Arsenal under Wenger, Mbappe plays in the front two. He has the power and pace to push wide, take defenders with him and then burst past opponents, getting into the box.
Monaco’s style suits him perfectly. They love to hit on the break and Mbappé will hug the shoulder of the last defender, looking to get free.
Single strikes against Montpellier, Nancy and Bastia whet the appetite, then he teased with an impressive hat-trick against Stade Rennais in the Coupe de France.
As Jardim looks to keep his team fresh with the UEFA Champions League clash with Manchester City coming up, Mbappé is gaining more minutes in the league.
Montpellier were made to pay, a moment’s lapse letting the youngster sprint beyond their back four and like Henry of old, he took the ball on the left-flank and finished calmly with his right-foot.
Metz were put to the sword last weekend and Mbappé’s hat-trick in the 5-0 thumping makes him the youngest player to score three times in the French league since a 17-year-old Jérémy Ménez did the same in 2005.
What the teenager has shown this season is a much rounder game than Henry had at this stage.
He can finish comfortably with both feet, but can also use his powerful frame to score with his head.
Mbappe has the footwork to beat defenders off the dribble, or glide past with strength and pace. Plus, he has the movement off the ball to find gaps and time dangerous runs into the box.
It helps that Monaco are in great form and the midfield behind him have become perhaps the most sought over in European football, but don’t let that take away from the amazing talent this kid possesses.
Wenger said, when asked about the possibility of an Arsenal move: “Of course we follow him.
“We know him very well, and he is developing well. I think he has extended his contract last season with Monaco, so it’s Monaco who will decide about his future. He could be another Thierry Henry.”