Can Kylian Mbappé catch up to Lionel Messi in the GOAT debate?

Can Kylian Mbappé catch up to Lionel Messi in the GOAT debate?

Published Jun. 17, 2024 7:19 p.m. ET

Kylian Mbappé has an argument as the best soccer player aged 25 years old or younger. In the eyes of many, he's already the best player in the game, period. But does he have the potential to pass Lionel Messi as the greatest player of all time?

"FOX Soccer NOW" co-host Melissa Ortiz thinks so, at least from a statistical standpoint.

"If we take into account his age, 25 years old, he still has at least 10 years in him," Ortiz said. "So, yeah, I do think he can catch Messi, and it's hard to say that cause I'm a massive Messi fan."

Ortiz's co-host Jimmy Conrad wasn't so sure.


"He's got a lot of Ballon d'Ors to win before he's even in the conversation," Conrad said, referencing Messi's all-time record eight Ballon d'Ors. "He's scored a lot of international goals, obviously he's already won a World Cup, so Mbappé's not too far off; he's just missing the individual accolades, like the Ballon d'Ors.

"Now, we can argue that Messi was winning all of his stuff in Barcelona with Xavi and [Andrés] Iniesta, and this golden generation of that club, but he was the main man every year, and some of his numbers are ridiculous. I mean, 91 goals in a calendar year is insane."

Messi's individual records by age 25 are the stuff of legend. The Argentinian legend had already collected four Ballon d'Or's by the time he reached that age, while scoring at least 20 goals for Barca in five straight seasons. That includes a wondrous 50-goal output in 2011-2012. By age 25, he had 20 club trophies, while Mbappé currently has 16. 

"I think Mbappé at age 25, much better internationally," Conrad said. "He's got 12 goals in 14 World Cup games, he's won a World Cup, and he scored maybe the greatest World Cup final goal off that volley against Argentina in 2022. But club-wise, I think Messi has him beat."

Austria vs. France Recap: Kylian Mbappé exits the game with nose injury | EURO Today

One of the biggest points of contention in the debate about Mbappé's all-time status relates to the league he played in with PSG: the French Ligue 1, which pales in comparison to the English Premier League and Spanish La Liga.

But Mbappé's now a La Liga statesman, and has a chance to quite some of that noise with Real Madrid. For guest analyst Stu Holden, that could change things considerably as far as his legacy is concerned.

"The reason I'm gonna say that Mbappé can catch Messi is because now he's at Real Madrid," Holden explained, "and I think the constant comparison oftentimes not only comes down to look, they both won one World Cup. Mbappé won it at a younger age, but when Mbappé was playing in France with PSG, everybody was like ‘ah you're playing at PSG, the French league's not as competitive as other leagues, can you do it elsewhere?'"

"So if he goes to Real Madrid now and wins the league, and wins [UEFA] Champions League and continues to dominate in the same type of way with the same type of numbers, he absolutely can catch Lionel Messi."

Another thing for Mbappé to improve upon: His playmaking ability. 

"That's one of the big differences," Holden said. "Mbappé's not an assists guy like Messi is with his passing ability. I think [Messi] makes everyone better around him, I think Mbappé is relying heavily to be the individual guy, creates a lot of goals for himself, but I'm not sure how consistently he's constantly making the guys around him better and shine."

Mbappé will try to build his case as the greatest player of all time with a Euros title with France. Mbappé has 18 shots in his Euros career and has yet to score a goal, according to FOX Sports Research.

France's Kylian Mbappé breaks nose and exits game | UEFA Euro 2024

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