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 wonder kid, Kylian Mbappe, his seal of approval.
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 , 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-minute 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.
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.”
And with Mbappe having been the key man in the Champions League destruction of Man City and Borussia Dortmund, the French principality will not be eager to let him go.
A reported valuation of over £100m tells you all you need to know about Monaco’s reluctance to sell him.