There are two players, Player A and Player B.
Player A is on top of the world. At 19, he’s widely regarded as the best young player in the world, he’s fresh off being the star player of a victorious World Cup campaign, and he’s drawing comparisons to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
Player B is three years older, but also regarded among the world’s best young players. However, he was left out of his team’s World Cup squad and has since seen questions raised about his attitude.
Timo Werner, Sane’s international teammate, said this week that Sane could be Germany’s Mbappe. On the face of it, the Frenchman has already surpassed his senior colleague, however. Sane’s impact on the pitch has been excellent, at times brilliant. Mbappe’s has been better.
The PSG star has scored more goals, 17 to 10, across the league and Champions League last season, despite playing over 500 fewer minutes. Per 90 minutes, his return is twice that of Sane’s, 0.60 to 0.29.
Of course, part of that can be put down to Mbappe playing in Ligue 1, where it’s slightly easier to score, especially if you play for PSG. He also had more of a goalscoring role for his team, especially after Neymar went down with injury, making his team’s secondary scoring option behind Edinson Cavani.
When it comes to his role, Sane could have at best been a third option, given Manchester City have two regular, high-quality strikers, Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus, who get plenty of minutes. But it’s telling that Sane was one rung further down, with Raheem Sterling outscoring the German while having a similar role.
Mbappe is also a slightly more prolific chance creator. He created 59 chances, at a rate of 2.07 per 90 minutes, across league and Champions League last season. Sane’s 69 chances came at a rate of 2.02 per 90 minutes. However, the Man City youngster had more assists, 17 to 11, and at a better rate, 0.50 to 0.39.
Leroy Sané across all club competitions in 2017/18:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 10, 2018
• 49 games
• 14 goals
• 19 assists
• 2 trophies
• Young Player of the Year
Kylian Mbappé across all club competitions last season:
• 46 games
• 21 goals
• 16 assists
• 3 trophies
• Young Player of the Year https://t.co/PawamUWpDn
The two are just about on par as dribblers. Mbappe produces 3.45 successful dribbles per 90 to Sane’s 3.27, but the German has a slightly better success rate, 62% to 60%.
Domestically, both are coming off equally successful campaigns. Both were named the Young Player of the Year in their respective leagues during the 2017-18 season. Both also won their leagues, and at least one cup each.
But the World Cup is where the difference emerges. Mbappe scored four goals, including becoming the first teenager to score in a final since Pele in 1958, and ended up winning the trophy and being named the tournament’s best young player.
Sane didn’t get the chance to measure himself against his counterpart, a selection decision that Germany are perhaps now ruing after a humiliating group-stage exit. But it’s worth pointing out that he also wasn’t this far advanced four years ago. 19-year-old Sane scored a memorable goal against Real Madrid in his first Champions League game, but he wasn’t as highly regarded as Mbappe is now.
And Mbappe has backed up that acclaim to far greater effect. Can Sane begin to catch his rival up?
*Stats taken from Squawka.
The Italy legend started PSG’s Trophee des Champions win over Monaco as well as the side’s first two Ligue 1 games, but Areola was given the nod for the next two fixtures, against Angers and Nimes, before the international break.
That decision was taken with Buffon’s Champions League ban in mind, as the Italian is suspended for the first three games of the competition following his red card during Juventus‘ controversial quarter-final loss to Real Madrid last season.
But Tuchel’s comments indicate that Areola has usurped Buffon in the overall pecking order.
“Yes, I chose. The decision is not final but I told Alphonse that he was, in my opinion, in pole position to be number 1,” Tuchel told RMC Sports.
“He comes from the academy. PSG is everything for him. And he absolutely wants to prove himself to PSG.
“This is a situation that must be respected and capitalised on. We must be proud to have players of this nature, we need this type of players who have the soul of PSG, who embody the club.
“We have a different situation with Gianluigi Buffon, a legend, an idol of Alphonse who is at his side.
“Both players have very strong personalities. We will have to fine-tune things.
“Gigi knows it, Alphonse knows it, if you get there, in this configuration, to be smart and generous with both, I’m sure we’ll be rewarded.
“And I’m sure that Alphonse will not be good despite Gigi but thanks to Gigi.”
However, Tuchel was quick to point out that even if Buffon were to be established as the backup keeper, he would be more than just a squad player.
“Gigi is not just a player on the bench. On a daily basis, he is a player who has a very big influence on the team, he played brilliantly against Guingamp for example, he saved us in the second half.
“He is on the bench because Alphonse needs minutes.
“Gigi would have the right to cross his arms on the bench and watch the game but he does not support it! It’s frenetic!
“He is present, he communicates with the players, tries to help me… and you understand why he is at the top and has such a career.”
The teenager eased PSG nerves with an unstoppable 77th-minute strike to put the champions back in front after the hosts had battled back from two-goals down and then hit the crossbar.
Mbappe brought down a high ball and without breaking stride, belted a shot into the roof of the net.
With seconds remaining, however, Mbappe reacted to a late challenge from Teji Savanier and shoved the Nimes midfielder to the floor. Referee Jerome Brisard, who booked Mbappe for kicking the ball away in the first half, brought out his red card. Savanier was also sent off.
The teenager said he had no regrets after his sending-off and claimed he would not hesitate to do the same thing again.
The 19-year-old striker’s reaction was in retaliation after he had been scythed down by Savanier
“No, no, no,” said Mbappe afterwards when asked if he wished he had not responded the way he did.
“If I had to do it again, I would and I would apologise to all the supporters and to everyone.
“I cannot tolerate that sort of gesture, it doesn’t belong on a football field. It wouldn’t be a problem if he intended to play the ball, but he made no attempt to play the ball, we all saw it.
“But it doesn’t matter, I’ll go and defend myself before the disciplinary committee.”
Mbappe will now be automatically suspended for PSG’s next game, a home match against Saint-Etienne on September 14 that precedes a trip to Liverpool in the Champions League.
But the nature of the offence means he could face a lengthier ban from domestic action.
Prior to that, Neymar had opened the scoring and Angel Di Maria doubled the PSG lead by scoring direct from a corner.
But Nimes responded in the second half and Antonin Bobichon halved their deficit before Savanier equalised from the penalty spot in the 71st-minute after a spot-kick awarded with the assistance of VAR.
It was Mbappe’s 77th-minute goal that punctured the home side’s hopes, before Edinson Cavani secured the win late on to leave PSG with maximum points after four games of the Ligue 1 season.
Asked if he doubted that PSG would win all three points, Mbappe said: “No, we want to be a great team, and a great team must learn never to doubt itself, even in difficulty. We were in a lot of difficulty today but we come away with the victory.”