'We have Pele here' - Wenger on first time he saw Mbappe play

A new documentary tells the story of Kylian Mbappe's football roots, with anecdotes from childhood friends, fellow footballers, his France manager Didier Deschamps and others.

Since bursting on to the scene with Monaco aged 16, the France forward has often been placed in the same bracket as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says that the first time he saw Mbappe play, he told people "we have Pele here".

At 25, Mbappe has played in two World Cup finals. As a 19-year-old, he was named best young player at the 2018 tournament - where he also became only the second teenager to score in a World Cup final, after Pele in 1958.

In 2022, France suffered a narrow loss to Argentina, but Mbappe was heroic - scoring a hat-trick and dragging his team to penalties.

At club level, the Paris St-Germain forward has won seven Ligue 1 titles - the first of those with Monaco - three French Cups and two French League Cups. He will leave his hometown club this summer as their record all-time goalscorer, having netted 256 times in 306 games.

A new BBC film explores the player’s journey from a poor Paris suburb to the heights of sporting greatness. Contemporaries from his time in youth football share stories about Mbappe’s football obsession. Former Monaco team-mate Bernardo Silva remembers his laser focus. Deschamps talks about his captain’s leadership qualities.

Here are a few takeaways from the documentary.

‘He wanted the Zidane cut’ – a football-obsessed kid

Zinedine Zidane of France and Demetrio Albertini and Fabio Cannavaro of Italy in action during the World Cup quarter final match between France and Italy, 1998.
Mbappe emulated his idol Zidane by winning a World Cup with France in 2018 [Getty Images]

There is a famous photograph of a young Mbappe sitting in his childhood bedroom surrounded by posters of Ronaldo.

He did also have another childhood idol from closer to home - as we learn in the film. Thierry Pointeau, a former youth coach of Mbappe’s, says the player once asked a hairdresser to shave a “bald patch” in the back of his head a la Zinedine Zidane.

Apparently, the hairdresser refused.

Zidane drove France to the World Cup in 1998 – the year Mbappe was born. Like Mbappe’s mother, Fayza Lamari, Zizou is also of Algerian Kabyle origin.

‘He wasn’t our fastest player’

Mbappe as a child on training pitch.
A 12-year-old Mbappe training for AS Bondy [Getty Images]

Mbappe grew up in the north-eastern Paris suburb of Bondy – a poor area, but one which has produced a wealth of footballers, including Arsenal’s William Saliba.

His childhood flat overlooked the stadium of Parisian banlieue team AS Bondy – where his father Wilfried worked as a coach. It made sense that 12-year-old Mbappe should start his football journey there.

However, according to his former Bondy youth team-mate Rayan Vianga, Mbappe was not actually the team's fastest player. He says the youngster's dad “always put him against the best defenders” and that this is what helped Mbappe develop so quickly.

Wenger tried to convince Mbappe to join Arsenal

Arsene Wenger smiling.
Wenger says he visited Mbappe's family home on a scouting mission while Arsenal manager [Getty Images]

As a young teen, Mbappe was accepted into Clairefontaine, the French national football centre. The elite academy has produced stars such as Thierry Henry, Nicolas Anelka, William Gallas, Blaise Matuidi and Hatem Ben Arfa.

By his second year at Clairefontaine, Mbappe began to attract many suitors.

French football journalist Julien Laurens says the teen had options to join Real Madrid, Arsenal and Manchester United.

Arsene Wenger admits he tried to convince Mbappe to come to Arsenal.

Instead, at one point it looked as if the prodigy would join Caen, a relatively low-profile French club.

Caen scout David Lasry says he was “blown away” by the youngster’s talent and told the club he thought Mbappe was “a future Ballon d’Or contender”.

According to Lasry, Mbappe’s father Wilfried informed him the family had made their minds up for the youngster to join Caen but the deal fell through when the club were relegated from Ligue 1.

He would ‘destroy everyone’ in training at Monaco – Bernardo Silva

Bernardo Silva touches Kylian Mbappe's head in celebration - both playing for Monaco.
Silva says Mbappe was not afraid of 'humiliating' senior players during training at Monaco [Getty Images]

In 2013, Mbappe left Clairefontaine to join Monaco’s youth set-up.

He made his senior debut for the Ligue 1 team in December 2015 - beating Thierry Henry's 21-year record to become the club’s youngest ever player aged 16 years, 347 days.

During the 2016-17 season, the forward scored 15 times in 29 Ligue 1 matches to help Monaco lift the title for the first time in 17 years.

Manchester City midfielder Bernardo Silva played alongside Mbappe at Monaco and remembers how, at the age of 16, he would “destroy everyone” in training.

He also says Mbappe's professionalism was exemplary. Monaco sealed the title with a game to spare in May 2017 but while the team celebrated in the dressing room, Silva recalls their young forward went home early “because he wanted to play the last game properly”.

Silva says this “obsession for football” is what got Mbappe “to where he is right now”.

'Ego is a necessary drive for success'

Kylian Mbappe celebrates his second goal at the 2022 World Cup, with his arms out.
Deschamps says Mbappe 'takes players with him' [Getty Images]

For all the plaudits Mbappe receives, one criticism sometimes levelled at him by pundits and fans is that he lets his ego get out of control.

Martin Buchheit, a performance director at PSG, believes that ego is "a necessary drive for success" and that it is wrong for people to say Mbappe should leave his ego "at the door".

Alan Shearer, who holds the Premier League goalscoring record, says the best players must have arrogance.

In other scenes, those who have worked with the forward praise his leadership qualities.

Deschamps says his captain "raised the bar so high, so early".

France defender Ibrahima Konate lauds his captain's bravery for taking the first penalty in the World Cup final shootout against Argentina. Mbappe had famously missed a crucial penalty when France were eliminated by Switzerland from the European Championship a year earlier.

Konate says the forward wanted to "score and give confidence to the other players”.