Career plan, ego, show, World Cup, Champions League … Kylian Mbappé spoke at length before the quarter-final first leg against Bayern Munich, in an interview broadcast by RMC Sport.
Kylian Mbappé, the word ambition has followed you for ten years. Does it stick to your skin?
Of course, because I have never limited myself. It was not always understood. Because when you arrive, you haven’t done anything in football, you say you want to do this, do that, win … It calls out. But now, I never limited myself. I never said I was going to be the greatest player in history. But I never gave myself a limit. If I get to a certain level, I don’t want to put up a barrier and tell myself that it’s good, that it’s my max. No, I try to push my limits and I see how far it takes me. For now it is successful for me, and I will continue like this until the end of my career.
Is it true that you wrote your career plan on a piece of paper when you were 10 years old?
Yes, it is, but it is taken out of context. It was at school. We were asked what we wanted to do. It’s classic, teachers often ask students what they want to do. And I wrote everything I wanted to do, except it was football. So I wrote all the course I wanted to do in football. Afterwards, I kept it at home. Now that I’ve succeeded, it’s a collector’s story. But basically, it’s something trivial that every child could do to play soccer.
At 17, at Clairefontaine, you said: “I like to do the show. People have paid for it, they come, so I’m here to do the show”. Five years later, has the discourse changed?
No. When I went to the stadium, and I think I was no different, you paid to see a show. There are players who make you pay for your seat. It’s like that. People come to have fun, they have multiple problems. And when they come to the stadium, it’s not to have other problems. They come to savor, to enjoy. Enjoy as we say in English. Here it is, it is like that, and we must never forget this notion of pleasure. Even if there is this obligation of results, this pressure, it should never take precedence over the pleasure. People come to have fun, and we are there to give it.
In another interview, why did you say: “Workouts are meant to be personal and that’s how I learn”?
For a long time, I was criticized for not scoring goals. I was among the young people and I liked to do the show. But I wasn’t scoring goals. I remember several of my coaches telling me that you have to score in football today. And to score goals, you have to repeat these gestures. You don’t pass all week to shoot on Saturdays. It is not logical.
Mbappé: “In my head, I always tell myself that I am the best”
Knowing that France prefers the sublime losers (losers) to the magnificent winners, is ego very important in sport?
Of course it is important. When you are in the rough, no one other than yourself is going to push you. And you have to convince yourself that you are capable of toppling mountains. People don’t understand ego, but when you are not well there is no one going to come to your house and tell you if you can. It’s just you and your mindset (mentality, editor’s note). It’s just you. You have to convince yourself that you are capable of doing great things. Every time I step onto the field, I always tell myself that I am the best. However, I played on fields with Messi and Ronaldo. They’re better players than me, they’ve done a billion more things than me. But in my head, I always tell myself that I am the best. Like that, you don’t give yourself a limit and you try to give the best of yourself.
If people sometimes don’t understand, it may also be because there is this barrier created in relation to this subject. We don’t really explain what the ego is. For people, the ego is just not giving a buddy a penalty, or having a better salary than the player on the rival team. It’s not just that. It’s also in the preparation, it’s something personal. Excel. It is way beyond this superficial thing, to say “me I, me I”. I think there is a lot to say about it.
When you already win a World Cup at 19, how do you stay motivated and ambitious?
We want to win a second one. You tell yourself that it can only be an additional baggage for your trip. Normally, a World Cup is the culmination of a career, something that you work on in a club. You arrive around 27 or 28, and this is where you are at your peak. I had the chance to be in the bath right away and to win it at 19 years old. It will help me when there are other events and of course the ambition is to win a second. We have a country with an incredible breeding ground and it would be limiting to say that we have won one and that we can wait twenty years to win the second.
In 1983, Yannick Noah won Roland-Garros, the goal of a lifetime for him. Behind, he fell into depression. How do you manage to have the cursor to the maximum?
As you said, it was the goal of a lifetime for him. Me, that was not the goal of a lifetime. It was a monumental step, because we should not minimize a World Cup. But it’s still a step. I’ve always said I don’t want to limit myself. So once the World Cup was ticked off, the point was to tick another one. And to work to check off another. A career, if you’re very good, it’s fifteen years. So give it your all for fifteen years, and then you will have time to see what you have done and you will have all your life to say I won this, etc.
Mbappé: “I didn’t need to lose to learn”
In a documentary, your friend Malik Bentalha says that after the World Cup, he talks to you and you answer him that you have not yet won the Champions League …
The Champions League has a very important place. The World Cup, winning it early, is something you don’t necessarily realize. Maybe if I have the chance to win one at 30, it will be stronger in emotions and symbolism than the one I won. For me it was my first, you win, ok let’s go, it’s won, ok we can go home. I didn’t suffer to win it, I came and won it right away. The Champions League is something else, because I have experienced stages where we have lost, suffered, it is something else. If we win it it will be something else, if I win it there will be emotion, even if the World Cup is the absolute holy grail. But the Champions League, for me, in club, is what is done best.
The cliché is to say that we learn from our defeats …
It is not true, it is not true. I didn’t have to lose to learn and you don’t need to lose to learn. This is a speech to console. But it’s true that once you’ve lost, well, you have to use it, you won’t keep the defeat like a black spot, you have to use it. But I don’t believe in this logic that you have to lose in order to learn. No. Because me, before knowing the defeats that I had, I had won almost everything, and yet I had acquired an experience, a very enriching journey, I had learned so much from the players I worked with, coaches, of all people. I didn’t have to lose for that. So for me, it’s really consoling a loser since you were talking about losers!
The ambition is therefore not to set limits …
Never. Never. Never. Never let anyone put it on you either. Because a lot of players had no limit. But by dint of hearing: “Yes but you are able to do that”, they limit themselves. No one can limit you if you have the determination to do great things. You are the master of your destiny, each is and that’s how it is. I’ve always wanted to be here, to be who I am, and now that I am, I want to keep growing and doing what I do best.
A word on the game against Bayern on Wednesday?
The Champions League is like the song: the great teams. She says it well. Bayern is a great team. Now, we are going there with serenity and confidence. We’re going to play the first game in Munich, it’s a game people will want to watch, a great game. Everyone has to put themselves in front of the television and put on a good show, hoping to come away with victory.
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