After Paris Saint-Germain crushed Bayern Munich 3-0 in the Champions League, all the praise fell on Kylian Mbappe. Several prominent pundits at ESPN even said that the Frenchman was better than Neymar, an absolute master.
Obviously, such praise is way overblown. For starters, Neymar is technically perfect with both feet, and his completeness ranges from free kick ability to world-class passing to clinical finishing. That’s not to say that Mbappe doesn’t have tons of quality, but his game can’t be said to be equal to Neymar yet. When several ESPN pundits made their comments, Steve Nicol, also of ESPN, was quick to say that Neymar was way too good to say such things.
Craig Burley was the main pundit rating Mbappe over Neymar, which is a continuation of the little slights and jabs that Burley has been taking at Neymar.
Mbappe’s speed and directness really stands out to people. It’s quite striking to see him just blaze past people like he’s gliding on ice. Mbappe is extremely skilled and smooth, but he’s not on Neymar’s level. Many people say that the Brazilian is even more skilled than Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. To compare Mbappe to Neymar already is disrespectful to the PSG Number 10, who is clearly the team’s best player and key figure.
As fast as Neymar is, Mbappe is much faster. Based on the eye test, nobody in world football is as fast as Mbappe. There might be a few players close, but it looks as if Mbappe is the fastest. The ability to be technical and smooth at that speed makes the Frechman so hard to defend.
Against Bayern, Mbappe’s skill was on display. Several occasions really stand out. The first of course was how he totally bamboozled David Alaba by slowing rolling the ball to the left rather than shooting or accelerating. Alaba was left for dead in a display of true mastery of the ball. It was this play that likely caused so much praise around the world. The slow role with the bottom of his foot was uncommon and surprising, and who knows how he rolled it so gently off a full sprint? A player who was all speed could have never pulled off such a glorious fake.
In addition to this fake, there were several nicely weighted chipped passes, and there were lots of times the Frechman blew past his defender. Even some in the Brazilian press highlighted Mbappe’s play that game over Neymar’s.
Nevertheless, at this point it’s unlikely that Mbappe will beat Neymar to the Ballon d’Or. The Frenchman will continue to get better, but so will Neymar. The Brazilian has lightning pace, but the Frenchman’s pace is unrivaled. Mbappe will have to display more of his skill, passing, and scoring ability to be on Neymar’s level, but he will definitely push Neymar to get even better.
People used to take shots at the original Ronaldo and Ronaldinho, and it seems Neymar is also subject to criticism from various sources, which isn’t new for him. Many people seemed eager to diminish Neymar’s talent and body of work once again.