England’s World Cup game against France on Saturday will see two of football’s most prolific strikers go head-to-head.
Harry Kane and Kylian Mbappe will be looking to prove themselves as a superior striker in Qatar on Saturday night, live on talkSPORT, but that rivalry was about to spill over to north London.
While the England skipper is a club’s ultimate man having progressed through Tottenham’s academy before becoming their talisman figure, Mbappe came through youth training at Monaco, where he was tipped for stardom as early as the beginning.
His career path could have been very different had Arsene Wenger succeeded, with the Arsenal boss confirming he had held talks with the starlet over a move to the Gunners.
Cut from the same cloth as Thierry Henry, Mbappe could have perfectly honed his talents under Wenger’s guidance, but a move to England was not to be.
“We can talk about Mbappe, I was at his house when he wasn’t sure about extending his contract with Monaco,” Wenger told beIN Sports.
“He could have come to Arsenal for free. I would say every club is full of stories like that.
“You go to Milan, Manchester, Arsenal, Chelsea, there are these kinds of stories everywhere.”
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Signing Mbappe on a free transfer at this stage of his career would arguably have been considered one of the biggest deals in football, especially given his skyrocketing market value in recent years.
Those one-on-ones with Kane at Tottenham and Mbappe at Arsenal had the potential to be legendary, but now we’ll see the duo on the same pitch on Qatar’s biggest stage.
So far this season, Mbappe has scored 20 goals in 19 appearances, while Kane has netted 13 in 22 in all competitions – while in the World Cup, the French star has five goals and two assists, Kane having one goal and three assists.
Debates will rumble over who is the deadliest sniper in front of goal, but one man’s opinion on the matter is more believable than most, Mauricio Pochettino.
Pochettino knows both players well after managing Kane at Tottenham before managing Mbappe with Paris Saint-Germain.
He told The Athletic: “I saw Harry as an old-fashioned No.9 from the start. Perhaps because of his physical characteristics and the way he moves. But we helped him run, press and move in different areas, using different spaces on the pitch.
“So he was a player who could play inside or outside the box because his ability to understand the game is incredible. He feels what the team needs and when under pressure he can get into the box. midfielder to help the team move the ball upfield or provide assists.
“And if you want him to do that, he needs the ability to run, rather than just being a pivot in the box. So we improved his ability to suffer. To play like that, you need legs And if Harry falls in those positions in the quarter-finals of the World Cup on Saturday, it will be difficult for France to stop.
Pochettino added: “When I first met Kylian he was really, really confident – completely different from a young Harry.
“Of course Kylian has an ego, but in a good way. All great players have a big ego. It’s impossible not to. He’s arrogant in the right, best way.
“So I found at PSG that if Kylian made a mistake, I could explain to him why, what we needed him to do, so he could try to improve every game. Maybe the media paints a different picture, but the reality is that he was a really nice guy to deal with.
“And unlike Harry, Kylian is a player who doesn’t need to be connected to the whole game. He can be there for five or even 10 minutes, not involved in the game, not involved in his team, then appear, do something amazing and win the game.
“Harry is someone who needs to feel connected to the game. But Kylian is just the opposite. If he doesn’t touch the ball, he’s relaxed.
“He is so confident in himself that he knows that when the ball reaches him he will always beat his opponent and do what he knows best.”
With the two players at very different stages in their careers, not to mention wildly different styles of play, it would be unfair to draw a comparison on the duo.
However, with Kane in his early years and Mbappe appallingly still improving, it means the motivation for the two players is very different ahead of Saturday’s game.
As we watch these great goalscorers go head-to-head in the World Cup, we can only dream of how intense this rivalry would be had they led the charge on both north London sides.
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