Kylian and Ethan Mbappe: Master and apprentice join forces at Paris Saint-Germain

While one brother is in a position of unparalleled power at the Ligue 1 champions, his younger sibling's career is only just beginning

Kylian Mbappe, left, and his brother Ethan during Paris Saint-Germain's Coupe de France rout of Revel on January 7. Reuters
Powered by automated translation

“When Kylian wants to play, there’s not a lot you can say,” shrugged Luis Enrique, manager of Paris Saint-Germain, handing over a little of the authority of his position to his sometimes domineering superstar.

There had been a logic in resting Mbappe for the in the Coupe de France trip on Sunday night to Revel, of the regionalised sixth tier of French football, as the Ligue 1 champions would have won comfortably without their talisman striker.

He could have been asked to keep himself fresh for the much bigger challenges that spread ahead of him and his club in the first half of 2024. But he wanted to play and so the coach agreed.

Mbappe’s hat-trick was the difference between winning 6-0 and the eventual 9-0 rout. So comfortable was the outcome that Mbappe invited his junior colleague Gonzalo Ramos to take – and score – a penalty, a duty normally reserved for King Kylian.

So it was that the coach let the player’s desire shape team selection, and by the end of an evening in which a 10,000 crowd had a privileged sight of Mbappe in full flow, they had saw a bonus Mbappe on the pitch, too – Kylian’s younger brother, Ethan.

With an hour on the clock, he came off the bench. The 17-year-old had played a single minute, last month, for PSG’s first team up until then, but the promotion is part of a steady trajectory. “I’ve liked the way he trains,” said Luis Enrique of the midfielder, who picked Ethan to go on the club’s pre-season tour of Asia.

There he was without fraternal company. At that stage in the tumultuous relationship between Mbappe senior and PSG, employer and best-paid employee were at odds, the striker banished from summer training after he turned down a one-year contract extension.

A solution was eventually found but it remains temporary. Kylian Mbappe’s deal with PSG expires in June, and if he does not renew he is free to leave then without a transfer fee. Mbappe has been in this scenario before.

Two seasons ago, he looked set to join Real Madrid when his previous contract in Paris was soon to run out. He instead signed a new deal, for two years with that optional third season, that made him the world’s best-paid footballer.

Madrid, who have pursued Mbappe since his teens, and for whom Mbappe has often said he would like to play one day, remain the likeliest destination should he depart PSG this summer.

If he does, the French club will present the departure as a setback but not a major economic blow, given that Mbappe, by not triggering a year’s extension last summer, effectively gave up over €80 million in bonus payments from the club.

“Whatever I decide, the agreements we reached have successfully protected all parties and ensure the club can prepare calmly for next season,” Mbappe said last week.

Viewed from the seat of Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the PSG president, the set-up looks as if it has been calmly and meticulously set up to make Mbappe happier in Paris than ever.

Since the last time the prospect of move tantalised Madrid, tempted the player and obliged Al-Khelaifi to commit a huge tranche of PSG’s budget to keeping Mbappe, the working environment has altered, and although the bond between star and president reached a point of high tension last July, executive decisions have been taken that are designed to make the player more at ease.

His number one place in the dressing-room hierarchy is now undisputed. Lionel Messi has moved on. So has Neymar, with whom Mbappe had a prickly relationship. Among those brought in were Ousmane Dembele and Randal Kolo Muani, forwards who are colleagues in the France national team.

Luis Enrique, the fifth different manager PSG have taken on in the six years since Mbappe joined as a teenager from Monaco, is the only one of them to have arrived there with a Champions League winners’ medal on his resume. That’s the competition Mbappe, a world champion with France in 2018, and Al-Khelaifi long to win most.

So far Luis Enrique, who guided Barcelona to a European Cup triumph in 2015, is maximising Mbappe’s talents in a system based on fluid movement in attack. The hat-trick at Revel’s borrowed rugby stadium took his club goals for the season to 25, in 24 outings. Mbappe has been Ligue 1’s leading scorer five times. At this rate he’s on track to repeat the feat with a best-ever tally.

He’s only 25, young enough to remember, for Ethan’s benefit, how it feels to be on the cusp of a senior career at just 17, but mature and forthright enough to know he is at a unique position to master his own destiny. Madrid still want him and he has peaks still to climb.

In five months’ time, Mbappe will captain France, the favourites, at the European championship. He then wants to play at the Olympic Games in Paris, where he grew up, and has made that known to France’s Olympic coach, Thierry Henry.

And as Luis Enrique put it: “When Kylian wants to play, what can you say?” As the PSG coach also said: “He’s got a lot of character.” But in that case, he was talking about the other Mbappe, the rising prospect that is Ethan.

Updated: January 09, 2024, 4:51 AM