Pele: “Mbappé can be my heir… I see myself in his ability to play fast”

With his standout performances at the World Cup, Kylian Mbappe is undoubtedly one of the top 3 footballers in the world and possibly the best of his generation, but how does he compare to players of the past? Last year, Pele had anointed Kylian Mbappe as his possible “heir”.

“Mbappé can become my heir, and I’m not saying that as a joke,” Pele had told La Gazzetta Dello Sport. “I see myself in him playing fast. He’s a striker who thinks fast. When the ball arrives, he already knows what to do, he already has in mind where to go and how to steer the game to get the find the best solution. Those are also important features in contemporary football. And then Kylian is also fast in running and dribbling, just like me.”

They had met for a promotional event and Mbappé had told France Football magazine how impressed he was with meeting Pele.

“I didn’t sleep well the night before because I asked myself a lot of questions… I was a little afraid of being stupid in front of him,” said Mbappé. “It is like a monument. I had the impression that I was at the bottom of a mountain, with no plan to climb to the top. And when I saw the beaming eyes of the journalists during the press conference, I told myself that I was not the only one who was captivated by the man sitting next to me.”

Mbappé then revealed what Pele told him.

“I will remember this image of his face smiling to welcome me all my life. He kept telling me, when we were face to face, that I reminded him of him when he was younger. Physically, but also in my behavior. He stared at me and I have the impression that he saw himself a bit again. It was even a little embarrassing… He was so benevolent, kind of like a grandfather with his grandson.

After the 2018 World Cup, Pele would send Mbappé a signed shirt: “Always stay humble and work hard. I’m sure you will. I believe you have something special.”

When Pele was ill last month, Mbappé tweeted from the World Cup in Qatar: “Let’s pray for the king”. And Pele’s response was charming: “Thank you, my friend, I’m very happy that you broke another one of my records at the World Cup.”

And when Pele died, Mbappé posted a photo of them with the caption: “The king of football has left us, but his legacy will never be forgotten. Rest in peace, king.”

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