Arsenal supporters have been left with a sense of what might have been over the past decade, with Arsene Wenger in particular detailing the players who almost moved to the Emirates before changing direction.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Vincent Kompany, Paul Pogba and Yaya Toure all feature on the list, with arguably the most talented name scoring a hat-trick in the Champions League against Barcelona earlier this week.
Kylian Mbappe demanded the spotlight at the Camp Nou ahead of Lionel Messi, with the French youngster having the potential to reach and possibly exceed the heights of many of the famous names to play the game.
Wenger elaborated on Mbappe’s link with the Gunners recently, stating: “I was at his home when he was undecided whether to extend his contract with AS Monaco. He could have come to Arsenal for free.”
They are tough quotes for Arsenal fans to digest given the level that Mbappe has reached already, combined with what he could go on to become.
Still just 22 years-old, the French forward has scored 96 league goals so far – with five being penalties – while also registering 35 assists from 9,340 minutes of football.
He has averaged over a goal every 90 minutes for three consecutive campaigns including this season, which is quite remarkable once compared with the best around.
His league average since turning professional for goals + assists minus penalties per 90 is 1.21, which Ronaldo bettered in four seasons at Real Madrid, compared to Messi who has bettered it in 10 campaigns.
However, Mbappe’s age must be remembered; Ronaldo failed to post higher than Mbappe’s career average until he turned 25 years-old and entered what seemed to be his peak, while it wasn’t until Messi turned 22 before he exploded.
Mbappe is essentially ahead of both Ronaldo and Messi based on the level of each player by the age of 22, which is quite incredible considering what the latter two names went on to achieve at the pinnacle of the sport.
It remains to be seen whether his prime years will be as colossal, and he will have to remain largely injury-free if he’s to eventually contest the numbers posted by the two greats, but Wenger was ahead of the curve with his awareness of Mbappe’s ceiling.
The former Arsenal boss did what he could to bring the next generational figure to London, but it ultimately wasn’t to be.
Mikel Arteta will hope that when the next star begins to emerge under the radar, he will have to same degree of foresight that Wenger had all those years ago.