Is Kylian Mbappe building a bad boy reputation that could damage career?
Amongst other accolades, Kylian Mbappe is a two-time Ligue 1 champion and a World Cup winner. He is also the world's best young player at the moment, according to FIFA. And all these have been accomplished as a teenager.
Few players can boast of Mbappe's achievements in the game at such a young age. While people like Pele can be commended for not allowing such tremendous success in the game at an early age get into their heads, not many others can prevent such success from influencing their behaviour.
Alongside the flashes of brilliance displayed and super goals scored in the World Cup to help France to another world crown, Mbappe also comes with his own baggage.
At the World Cup, he was sometimes in the middle of skirmishes with opposition players as a result of his actions. Some of them were witnessed in the last-16 match against Uruguay where he clashed with Cristian Rodriguez. The incident created an unnecessary flashpoint in the game. After the dust settled, the centre referee put the matter to rest by brandishing a yellow card to both parties.
Speaking about the incident in an interview later on, legendary France international Alain Giresse stated:
“He must learn the good things from Neymar, not what he did against Rodriguez.”
In the semifinal clash against Belgium, the youngster also drew the criticism of his Paris Saint-Germain teammate Thomas Meunier who chided him for his behaviour.
"If players like Zinedine Zidane or Ronaldo became legends with Real Madrid back in the day, it is because they played with pride and desire on the pitch.
"Zidane and Ronaldo's aims were not to be cinematic or to do things like that. They have always been rightly respected because of their footballing ability and attitude.
"Over the years, as he matures, Kylian will probably understand that attitude is an important part of becoming a legend," the Belgian stated.
Mbappe had cut a figure of a young chap simply enjoying what he loves to do on the pitch and being less concerned about theatrics or retaliation when he felt harshly tackled. It was the referee’s job to make the right call. But since moving to the Parc des Princes, the 19-year-old appears to be taking on some of the prevailing habits at the capital club.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic brought with him a cockiness that is uniquely his. But he may not have left the club without leaving an inspiration behind for some of those who will adorn the jersey after him.
Apart from Neymar, who could feel entitled to such behaviour as he wears the crown of the world's most expensive player, some others have shown such character. Dani Alves stated in an interview last season prior to the first Classique against Marseille that he could not name a single player in the club's roster. It, in essence, implied that they were nowhere near the level of Les Parisiens.
More recently, Adrien Rabiot withdrew himself from consideration as one of France reserve players for the World Cup. The action was taken in protest over not being included in Didier Deschamps' first team.
At 19, Mbappe is clearly not immune to influence from his colleagues. That much is beginning to show in his attitude. He is now becoming less and less tolerant of tackles from opposition players and hardly wears the cheeky smile that had become associated with him at Monaco.
In just the fourth league game of the season, he received his marching orders against newly-promoted Reims. After he pushed down Teji Savanier in retaliation for a tackle, the referee issued him a red card as his action was considered violent behaviour.
And that was after he was shown a yellow card early in the game for dissent. He kicked the ball away when Nimes were given a free-kick and then aimed words at referee Jerome Brisard.
Normally, you’d expect the player to show remorse and apologise for his action after the red card in the second incident. But speaking after the match, despite mentioning that he “will apologise to supporters and everyone…” he more or less nullified his supposed apology, when asked if he regretted his action as a result of the sending off, by also stating:
"No, I do not regret it. And if it was again, so I will do it again.”
This unrepentant attitude and his rising petulance are qualities capable of tarnishing his burgeoning image as an icon in the game if left unchecked. Yes, he is a World Cup winner and all, but he still has a long career ahead of him. And as it is well known, it doesn't take much to destroy one’s good reputation.
Individuals and organisations regularly take actions including filing court cases against parties they feel are tarnishing their image or soiling their reputation. That's how important a good reputation is considered. But Mbappe may be on a path to self-destruct if he continues acting this way.