Connect in the back of the net

Last week saw FIFA present the winners of their ‘The Best’ awards to the best male and female players in the game today.

Among the numerous awards that FIFA hand out, one of the most interesting is the Golden Boy award, which is an award that crowns the best young player of the year.

This year’s winner is PSG forward Kylian Mbappe. The 18-year-old as had an unbelievable start to his footballing career and joins an illustrious list of players including Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Paul Pogba to have won the award.

Yet, in a year where many young players around the world made a name for themselves, did Mbappe deserve to win the award?

 

One cog in a magnificent team

Mbappe played for Monaco last season, a Monaco team that defied the odds to win the Ligue 1 title for the first time in 17 years.

Leonardo Jardim, who was incredibly unfortunate not to be listed for male coach of the year, assembled a young team that was hungry for success, and it paid off, as they romped to the title scoring a remarkable amount of goals.

But, it must be said, that Mbappe would have been nothing without the Monaco team that was around him.

His strike partner, Radamel Falcao had his best season for a very long time and, along with scoring 21 goals, eased Mbappe into the team and was the perfect strike partner for the youngster.

Then you look out wide.

Thomas Lemar and Bernardo Silva were as good, if not better, than Mbappe last season. Their tireless work down the left and right wings and their attacking movement allowed Mbappe to express himself more in the final third and made his goal scoring chances far easier.

Even if you look further back than the forward line, the defensive set up for Monaco were brilliant. If a team scores a lot of goals, it normally means that the defence is very leaky, but this Monaco defence was rock solid.

The likes of Glik and Jemerson in the centre of defence made it difficult for opponents to get through, and when they did, Sidibe and Mendy would come in from wide to sniff out the danger. You also had Fabinho and Bakayoko in the heart of midfield who allowed the forward line to attack as much as they wanted without worrying about coming back on defence.

All these players contributed a lot to Monaco, and many have gone onto bigger clubs. Bernardo Silva has moved to Manchester City along with Benjamin Mendy. Tiemoue Bakayoko has moved to Chelsea and Mbappe has moved to PSG.

Yet, the fact that Mbappe got all the plaudits for Monaco winning the title is absurd! He certainly didn’t win the title for them on his own. Undoubtedly, Mbappe’s talent is scary to think about, but he was merely a small cog in a magnificent team last season.

 

He only played half a season

Mbappe only really started playing for Monaco around the Christmas period, so he only really played half a season, and I personally don’t understand how a player who’s only played half a season can win this award.

If you look at the other nominees for this award, they’ve played a full season and contributed a lot more to their respective teams than Mbappe did for Monaco.

Ousmane Dembele in my opinion should have won this award.

Without Dembele, Dortmund would not have finished in the Champions League places in the Bundesliga last season, that’s how pivotal to Dortmund’s success last season.

The link up play he formed with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was one of the most feared partnerships in Europe last season, and his numbers also back up his influence last season. He scored 6 goals and more importantly assisted 12 goals. Without those goals and assists, Dortmund wouldn’t have been the team they were last season.

Another nominee was Marcus Rashford.

Rashford almost single handily took Manchester United to the Europa League final last season. Rashford scored crucial goals against Anderlecht and Celta Vigo last season and almost outshone Zlatan Ibrahimovic in last season’s competition.

And although his stats are poor compared to the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele, the influence and energy that he brings to Manchester United certainly matches the two Frenchmen.

On a talent level, I don’t think Rashford is as good technically as Mbappe and Dembele, and in order for him to realise his full potential, he needs to be playing up front for Manchester United, but that’s a different argument for a different day.

But, it isn’t all about attackers. One nominee who deserves a lot more credit for what he’s currently getting is Youri Tielemans.

The Belgian midfielder was the shining light in Anderlecht’s Belgian League winning squad last season and was a big contributor to them getting to the Europa League quarter final, where they were desperately unlucky to get knocked out by Manchester United.

Tielemans scored 18 goals last season from midfield and his form earned him a move to Monaco where, over the next couple of seasons, will improve massively and Tielemans will be a Premier League megastar one day.

All three of these players, and a lot more of the nominees played a full season, and don’t get the recognition they deserve because of the media hype that has surrounded Mbappe and his half a season.

 

Verdict

Although it seems that I have been criticising Mbappe a lot, I am certainly a fan.

You don’t get compared to Thierry Henry often, but then again, Yaya Sanogo was also compared to Henry, but I genuinely believe that Mbappe is the real deal and he, along with Ousmane Dembele, are the future of French football.

Yet, I still don’t believe he should have been given the Golden Boy award.

I believe that other young players have contributed a lot more to their respective teams than Mbappe has contributed to Monaco last season, and to think he’s only played half a season, makes me believe that FIFA has done this as a media ploy, but they wouldn’t do that wouldn’t they!  

 

Written by Sion Misra

Follow Sion on Twitter @sionmisra

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