Kylian Mbappe was 19 years old when France won the 2018 World Cup. He became the second teenager to score in a World Cup final as part of France’s 4-2 win over Croatia, joining Brazil legend Pele. Mbappe was named the Best Young Player of the Tournament. He scored four goals overall, tied with the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Cristiano Ronaldo and teammate Antoine Griezmann.
Four years later, Mbappe has continued to build his legacy. He’s one of the highest paid players in the world at one of the richest clubs, Paris Saint-Germain. He’s seventh on France’s all-time scoring list despite playing just 61 games for his country. He has a whopping 221 goals in 309 appearances for his domestic clubs. And most importantly, he already has a World Cup title as he steps into the 2022 final.
Mbappe still has a long way to go to catch the likes Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Pele when it comes to overall statistics. However, it’s hard not to look ahead and wonder where the French superstar will end up. Here’s a look at total goals for the three players listed above according to the latest data.
Messi: 818 total goals in 1,057 appearances, 0.77 goals per game
Ronaldo: 837 goals in 1,181 appearances, 0.71 goals per game
Pele: 761 goals in 835 appearances, 0.91 goals per game
Mbappe is at 0.68 goals per game but he hasn’t hit his prime yet. As he continues to reach closer to his peak, this average could go up. The forward also doesn’t have the requisite individual accomplishments of Messi, Ronaldo and Pele. He’s never won a Champions League or Ballon d’Or, something he’ll have to get eventually to be in the conversation.
The one thing that could really set Mbappe apart from this group is international accolades. He already has one World Cup and could get another in Sunday’s final, two days before his 24th birthday. If he wins, he’ll deny Messi a World Cup title in the process. Ronaldo doesn’t have a World Cup title. Pele has three World Cup wins but Mbappe would have two with at least a decade left. That likely means three more shots at a third title.
Messi has a Copa America title and Ronaldo did win the European championship, but Mbappe is going to have more chances at the latter. If he can win even one European title, he’ll have done enough to be in comparison with the best.
There are uncertainties about sustained greatness. Injuries, natural decline and freak moments can derail a career. That’s what makes Messi and Ronaldo stand apart. However, Mbappe does have the foundation for sustained greatness with his early success. That foundation can get even stronger with a win in Sunday’s final.