Like Messi, Maradona & Pele, Mbappe must now get used to special treatment

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The youngster was subject to some rough treatment from the Italian champions, but as his reputation grows he will have to learn to cope with it


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The Champions League semi-final second leg was a rough experience for Kylian Mbappe, both metaphorically and physically. As Monaco were being brushed off by a highly impressive Juventus side 2-1 on the night in Turin and 4-1 on aggregate, the 18-year-old phenomenon was being left battered and bruised by Andrea Barzagli - a player twice his age.

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Aware of the France international’s talents in the first leg, from which he emerged with credit despite a 2-0 defeat, Massimiliano Allegri set his side up to quell the threat of the teenager.

In many ways, it was the greatest compliment that the Italian champions – perhaps the most formidable defensive side the Champions League has ever known – could pay the young forward. All the greats, from Pele to Diego Maradona to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have had to face such treatment: it is a sign of respect.

Only on occasion was his smart footwork and dazzling pace allowed to come to the fore, with Barzagli’s no-nonsense approach as brutal as possible while playing within the confines of the laws. But just as he has overcome all the other barriers thrown in front of him in his short career to date, he managed to end Gianluigi Buffon's incredible 690-minute run in the Champions League without conceding - a moment that could be referenced in years to come, despite its academic nature in this tie.

It is a tactic that the youngster will increasingly have to deal with as his reputation grows and is one that he has dealt with effectively before.

Dani Alves Mbappe Juventus Monaco Champions League

Kylian Mbappe Monaco

The Coupe de la Ligue final, lost 4-1 against Paris Saint-Germain, was the first occasion in which he was truly troubled in this manner. Up against Thiago Silva, a centre-back more noted for his reading of the game than his combative approach, he found himself the victim of an uncharacteristically physical display from the former Brazil captain.

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“Thiago Silva charged at him from the first to the last minute. He really tackled him hard. You could see that he was trying to get at him and that he wanted to ruin his confidence,” goalkeeper Danijel Subasic told 24Sata last month.

“After the match, in the dressing room, Mbappe was very sad, he was on the verge of tears, very hurt and I was sorry to see him in that state. I consoled him and I told him that these things were normal because he has shown everyone to what extent he is strong and that this was going to continue in the future.”

Certainly, teams in Ligue 1 have tried to quell him using these strong-arm tactics but have simply not been good enough. Juventus, the masters of defending, on the other hand, were perfectly capable of doing so.

At times, Barzagli alone was not enough. Mbappe found himself up against two world-class defenders and was largely incapable of making headway. Few would have been. 

And Mbappe, despite becoming the youngest ever scorer in a Champions League semi-final, was not the only Monaco player to find the going hard. 

Leonardo Jardim’s tactics left his side exposed at the back and had it not been for an outstanding display of shot-stopping from Danijel Subasic, it could have been a real rout in favour of the hosts.

That would have been unfair on a Monaco side that have entertained so richly upon both the European and domestic stage this season, but they simply ran into opponents too good for them.

Perhaps there were tears in the Juventus Stadium at full-time, but this was a valuable learning experience, both collectively and individually, and Mbappe will be all the richer for it.

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