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Euro 2020 heartache for Kylian Mbappe: What next for France’s golden boy?

How football can bring about such contrasts.

Just three years ago a teenage Kylian Mbappe was blitzing past opponents at the 2018 Russia World Cup, leading his nation to greatness.

Mbappe would go on to score in the final and be crowned a world champion despite his tender years, and was the main reason why France entered Euro 2020 as red hot favourites.

Kylian Mbappe was inconsolable after missing the crucial penalty to send France home

Now, after Monday night’s shock exit at the hands of Switzerland, a dark cloud hangs over the France team and particularly over the head of young Mbappe.

The precociously talented youngster still has the world at his feet – there is absolutely no denying that – but the actions he takes in the coming months will go a long way to defining how he recovers from this most painful of set-backs.

With his Paris Saint Germain future in doubt and questions being asked, in some quarters, about his attitude and growing ego, what comes next for France’s golden boy?

It was a long walk up to the penalty spot for Mbappe in Bucharest, after each and every player before him had found the back of the net.

Having forced the game to extra-time at the very death, Switzerland had both the momentum and the confidence.

Mbappe knew he needed to score or it was lights out for his nation, yet his tame right-footed effort was nowhere near close enough to the far corner to give Yan Sommer anything to worry about.

And yet, somehow, there had been a lingering feeling that not all was going to plan from the start.

Something was amiss from the moment the tournament, for Mbappe and France, had begun. Now a long couple of months lay ahead. But how did things get to this point?

Public infighting

Starting an international tournament on a bad note is never a good idea, but an issue had arisen between Mbappe and Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud.

A final warm-up match prior to Euro 2020 had prompted Giroud to criticise the forward line and claim that enough chances were not being made for others.

Mbappe was involved in a pre-tournament feud with fellow France forward Olivier Giroud

Mbappe was involved in a pre-tournament feud with fellow France forward Olivier Giroud

Mbappe was said to be furious after the Chelsea man came out after the game and claimed that France’s front players could have linked up better, while he visibly looked annoyed with Mbappe on the pitch.

L’Equipe claimed that Mbappe, so livid with Giroud, wanted to go public with his response, but was talked out of holding his own press conference.

Usually, these things are quickly brushed under the carpet. After all, who wants their dirty laundry airing for all to see?

Yet for some reason France always seem to find away to let a drop of unrest really root into the camp and fester for long periods of time, causing myriad problems as a result.

Mbappe ultimately had his chance to go public on the subject, speaking to the media in a Euro 2020 press conference ahead of the Germany game – which they would go on to narrowly win 1-0 in the groups.

‘I spoke with Olivier Giroud,’ he said. ‘Everyone knows what happened. It is true that I was a little affected by it. But we are not going to make a big deal about it because we are here to represent France, that is the most important thing.

‘It is more that he said it publicly than the fact that he said it. I saw him in the dressing room and he didn’t say anything to me.’

And so that was that. The issue was considered addressed, yet Mbappe had revealed to the world that an awkward rift was still residing within the dressing room.

Would this go on to hamper France’s play, particularly the forward line? Some people may now, in hindsight, suggest yes.

Squandered chances

Much has been made of Mbappe’s failure to even find the back of the net once at the Euros, and plenty more will no doubt be written.

The big players have to arrive at the big tournaments and Mbappe simply failed to do so.

When the going got tough and the pressure piled on in the knockout rounds, Mbappe was unable to deliver. 

Against Switzerland Mbappe found himself played through by a highly in-form Paul Pogba on multiple occasions, yet was unable to either beat the last man or sort his feet out in time to convert.

His flicked assist for Karim Benzema against the Swiss was his only one of the tournament, and further chances were missed in the group stage against both Germany and Hungary.

Mbappe's poor penalty was just one of a few key misses during the tournament for France

Mbappe’s poor penalty was just one of a few key misses during the tournament for France

For a player with a lot on his mind, this must have been tough to take. 

After all, Mbappe had just endured a miserable season in which PSG had squandered the league title against all odds – before then heading into a major international tournament and falling out with a team-mate.

As more games passed by and Mbappe failed to break his drought, a psychological element perhaps came into play.

The result? A boiling pot of pressure in the mind of one of the world’s most gifted young footballers, as he looked to emulate his hero Cristiano Ronaldo and step up to take the pressure fifth penalty in a shootout with the eyes of the world watching on.

Some people, however, were less than sympathetic. It has been suggested in some corners that Mbappe himself is the problem. 

Ego issues?

The youngster’s ‘oversized ego’ has become ‘problematic’ for Didier Deschamps and France, according to Jerome Rothen.

JeromeRothen (right) insisted that Mbappe now has an ego which is harming France's chances

JeromeRothen (right) insisted that Mbappe now has an ego which is harming France’s chances

Former PSG and France winger Rothen had insisted the issue of Mbappe ego has now become so great that Les Bleus boss Deschamps cannot control it, and admits no one can be ‘satisfied’ with his performances at the Euros.

‘That he is the leader on the pitch, no problem… that it [his ego] extends to off the field too, that bothers me,’ Rothen told French outlet RMC Sport.

‘I think Didier Deschamps can no longer manage it and it is problematic. It is even surprising that he lets Kylian Mbappe do so many things. 

‘It can be seen in his performances on the pitch. Today, we cannot say that Kylian Mbappe has had a successful Euros.

‘Is he in the right like he was at PSG throughout the end of the season? I would say no. 

‘We expect much better from Kylian Mbappe. Everyone thinks that Mbappe is one of the best players in Europe. But if you immediately put him in the category of the very best, you cannot be satisfied.’

Rothen claimed that Les Bleus boss Didier Deschamps can no longer control the PSG star

Rothen claimed that Les Bleus boss Didier Deschamps can no longer control the PSG star

Rothen had also decided to twist the knife and make it clear that Mbappe was not even good enough to remain on set-pieces, despite regularly trying to claim the ball and take freekicks for his nation.

He added: ‘Is he aware that he does not have the class of some [of the others] in the group on set pieces?

‘Maybe he scores them in training. But I watch all of Mbappe’s matches. Do you remember a magnificent free-kick? From 25 metres? 

‘On the other hand, I remember some from Griezmann, from Pogba. That’s two already, a left footer and a right footer. So what is he [Mbappe] doing there?’

Press reaction

Surely some sections of the French media have come to Mbappe’s defence following the Euro 2020 heartbreak, though?

Not exactly.

Still scathing from the exit to Switzerland, French daily Provence wrote of Mbappe: ‘PSG and the influence of Neymar turned one of the most gifted players on the planet into an infuriating attacker who, instead of making a difference, now annoys everyone.

‘For the good of the Blues, it is time for him to finally join a big club and resume his march forward.’

Yikes.

Over in L’Equipe, Mbappe was awarded just a 4/10 for his performance with few compliments heading in his direct, despite an assist and a classy flick through to Antoine Griezmann for France’s second.

Clearly the dust needs to settle, but there is a growing feeling that the opinion of Mbappe is changing in his homeland.

Still adored by millions, yet blighted by the constant pressure on his shoulders.

It may well give him food for thought when the next step in his career is considered. PSG want him to commit to the club on fresh terms, but this is now looking less likely than ever. 

Uncertain future

In the last month, Mbappe cast doubt over his long-term future at Paris Saint-Germain after admitting he does not know if the club is the best place for him.

The 22-year-old’s future is now very much up in the air this summer with just one year remaining on his deal at the Parc des Princes.

The striker is struggling to agree a new deal in the French capital, leading to speculation he could be sold, with Spanish giants Real Madrid still thought to be keen despite the departure of compatriot Zinedine Zidane. 

A move to Madrid has been championed by none other than his France partner Karim Benzema

A move to Madrid has been championed by none other than his France partner Karim Benzema

When asked about his immediate future on the eve of Euro 2020, Mbappe told France Football: ‘I don’t necessarily need to go fast. 

‘I have to make the right decision, which is difficult, and give myself every chance to make up my mind. I am in a place where I like myself, where I feel good. But is this the best place for me? I don’t have the answer yet. I know that a project with or without me is not quite the same for the club.

‘But PSG understand my feelings. Probably also because they knows that I will not sneak. Being a great player also proves itself outside the field where you have to know how to do things cleanly and with class.’

Mbappe’s comments came as RMC Sport in France claimed that he had personally made it clear to PSG that he will not be making a decision on his future until after the tournament. 

A cloud now hangs over Mbappe and the youngster has some big decisions to make

A cloud now hangs over Mbappe and the youngster has some big decisions to make

The same outlet claimed the striker had never sought control over the club’s transfer policy, but did indeed want assurances they will continue to build a competitive squad over the coming years.

Now, with everything France-related most likely giving Mbappe a bitter aftertaste, is it time to up sticks and push for the move?

One of the few positives of Mbappe’s Euro campaign was a telepathic link-up with Benzema and a razor sharp understanding of the veteran’s game.

Madrid may be highly pushed for money right now, but do not assume a move is out of the question in the coming months. 

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