The World Cup winner has eight on the season in the competition, and more goals by knockout than Thierry Henry achieved in his entire career.
In the absence of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo from the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time since 2005, Kylian Mbappé once again emphasized his ability to claim his crown as the game’s featured player.
The World Cup winner twice found the target when a Paris Saint-Germain counterattacked their way to a 3-2 lead in the quarter-final first leg at Bayern Munich.
It was the game that the 2020 final was expected to be: a breathless encounter between a Bayern team trying to throw numbers on the attack and a PSG team capable of advancing to the rhythm every time they negotiate with the press of their Bavarian hosts.
And it was Mbappé’s rhythm that proved to be the best weapon for Mauricio Pochettino’s team on a snowy night at the Allianz Arena.
Within minutes, he punished an absent Bayern defense by taking position in space and shooting hard through Manuel Neuer. It was the fastest goal conceded by Bayern in a Champions League knockout match since Wayne Rooney for Manchester United in 2010.
That laid the groundwork for Marquinhos to put the Parisians into a 2-0 lead after he held on to a perfect Neymar cross for the first time, but when the captain was injured, any semblance of defensive composure disappeared due to foul. deep. defense was exposed in the heart of PSG.
Bayern rallied the game to 2-2 thanks to header hits from Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Thomas Muller, but just when it looked like Hansi Flick’s side was going to deliver the knockout blow, Mbappé galloped down the left, hitting Neuer looked up and sent a brilliant shot at the goalkeeper’s near post.
Mbappé, Neymar Bayern PSG Champions League quarterfinals 07042021
In a game in which PSG had so few opportunities, such a cool head in front of goal was essential. In fact, it was the only way they could have claimed a return leg advantage at Parc des Prince in six days.
It is the second time in the knockout phase that Mbappé has proven decisive. Faced with a Barcelona side improving at the Camp Nou in the round of 16, the 22-year-old was equally decisive, scoring a hat-trick on that occasion as PSG achieved an even more impressive 4-1 lead.
And yet this is all due to criticism in France that Mbappé has not been at his best, fueling the player’s comments suggesting that he could leave in the summer for a first adventure abroad.
Indeed, Mbappé endured a miserable drought in the Champions League in 2020. Although PSG reached the final of the competition, they were 10 games without scoring, from the group stage of the 2019-20 competition until the last group match this season. .
While it should be noted that he played Final 8 in Lisbon without being fit and sharp, there was understandable reason for concern as PSG initially struggled this season.
Yet faced with a succession of decisive matches in Europe, Mbappé has scored eight out of four, the kind of numbers fans have come to expect from Messi and Ronaldo over the years.
In fact, no French player has scored more than eight in a single edition of the Champions League, while Mbappé has more knockout goals to his credit at 22 than the great Thierry Henry in his entire career.
Whether PSG can negotiate a dangerous second leg against Bayern next Tuesday or not, Mbappé this season is establishing himself as soccer’s next great player.