Neil Humphreys: Mbappe can ease past Messi
French wunderkind set to soar in Europe
Kylian Mbappe probably already knows that the hallmark of a real superstar isn't when he's outstanding, but when he's average.
Every professional footballer has the odd outstanding game, goal or moment to add to a highlights reel. Even the most average of journeymen can look like Pele's offspring in a well-edited YouTube clip.
The difference between a one-season wonder and a career-long colossus isn't the quality of performance, but the quantity. It's the ability to do it on a wet Wednesday in Stoke, or the European equivalent, to deliver on a dodgy night.
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Mbappe is doing this now. Every week. He's producing PlayStation numbers on a production line. He's turning the extraordinary into the ordinary, emulating the work of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo before him.
He may not be better than either player - it's a futile argument - but he's hitting their kind of numbers in the same way.
At the weekend, he was no more than decent against Caen. But he scored twice. In fact, he scored both of Paris Saint-Germain's goals, earning them a come-from-behind 2-1 victory with a seven-out-of-10 performance.
Without really catching the eye, he stole the game.
Regular footballers can't win matches on their own with seven-out-of-10 performances. But Mbappe can, just like Messi and Ronaldo.
Manchester United are painfully aware that the Frenchman can beat them in the Champions League tomorrow morning (Singapore time) by merely being functional, just as he did in the first leg.
A moment of sublime speed and astonishing awareness was enough to outpace United's back four, knock in PSG's second goal and essentially kill off the contest. He didn't do much else, but it didn't matter.
His goal could only be scored by a select few, those blessed with his instincts, touch and pace around the box.
He's done it 50 times already in all competitions, reaching his half century for PSG at the age of 20 years and two months, smashing the previous French record of Yannick Stopyra (21 years, 11 months in 1982) and encouraging comparisons with the Brazilian Ronaldo.
PSG coach Thomas Tuchel made that comparison earlier this week, preferring to align his young forward with the retired Ronaldo rather than the Juventus version. Tuchel also downplayed the Messi link, which was understandable.
NEXT UNDISPUTED SUPERSTAR
The coach doesn't want to burden his wunderkind with further pressure. Besides, Mbappe doesn't need to be compared to Messi to replace him. He's the next undisputed superstar in waiting, not the next Messi.
Their skills may differ, but their consistency unites them.
Mbappe needed just 76 games to reach 50 goals, but he also picked up 28 assists along the way. According to Opta, he's involved in a goal every 77 minutes, the kind of daft stat that elevates him to PlayStation territory.
To make a topical comparison, Gareth Bale might boast a superior skill-set to Mbappe - it's all subjective - and conjure outlandish goals in finals, but he's scored only 13 this season. Bale has been a magnificent player in magnificent spells, but the freakish consistency of Messi and Ronaldo has eluded him.
Mbappe, on the other hand, is keeping pace. In the race for the European Golden Shoe, his tally of 24 Ligue 1 goals leaves him behind only Messi (25).
Mbappe is also destroying the myopic argument concerning the Ligue 1's lack of quality, i.e. he's a big, brutish fish in a French pond.
With little fanfare, he's plied his trade across the continent, too, finding the net at Anfield, the Allianz Arena and Old Trafford. He's scored 14 goals in 24 Champions League matches.
And he's barely finished puberty. At the same age, Ronaldo finished his second season at United with nine goals in all competitions. Mbappe has already won the World Cup and every domestic honour in France.
The Champions League is the next great leap forward and Mbappe seems poised to make the jump.
He's scoring regularly without the injured Edinson Cavani and Neymar and he's winning games, often on his own, without dominating them. That's got to be the stuff of nightmares for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Even when he's average, Mbappe still looks unstoppable.