Real Madrid and Kylian Mbappe – a Champions League combination?

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Playing against Bondy’s best was no mean feat given the tally of professional footballers among their alumni – which includes Arsenal defender William Saliba – is in double figures.

Project Mbappe didn’t stop there.

While a teenage Mbappe pinned up pictures of Ronaldo and watched old footage of Zinedine Zidane, another Real Madrid superstar, there was a third role model far closer to home – Jires Kembo Ekoko, his adopted brother.

Ekoko was taken in by Mbappe’s parents when he was nine and was selected for the French Federation’s national academy at Clairefontaine before playing professionally for Rennes in Ligue 1.

Ekoko was more than a decade older than Mbappe but had a big impact.

At the age of six, Mbappe had learned the French national anthem, explaining to his teacher that “one day, I’ll play in the World Cup for France”.

It wasn’t only Wilfried and Fayza who believed Mbappe was destined for big things.

Nike came calling with free shoes when he was just 10. A little over six years later, he made his first-team debut for Monaco. But the progress between those two points was not smooth.

Allan Momege was a classmate of Mbappe at Clairefontaine.

“At the time I met him, he wasn’t the player who impressed me the most,” Momege says of Mbappe in the BBC Sport documentary.

“He didn’t stand out for me as a player during the trials. The first time I saw him play, I didn’t think, ‘Wow!’

“There were regional selections and Kylian wasn’t in the best team.”

Matt Spiro, an author and French football expert, echoes Momege.

“Kylian initially found it a bit difficult at Clairefontaine,” he says. “He was there for two years and during the first year, he certainly wasn’t the best in his group. I think even Kylian would admit that.

“Mbappe would play out on the wing and would quite frequently be in a sulky mood. He had a growth spurt, I think towards the end of his first year in Clairefontaine, and by the second year, he was really starting to look the business.

“Then people were thinking, we’ve got a very, very special talent on our hands.”

That talent was picked up by Monaco scouts in July 2013, when he was aged 14.

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Moving from the Parisian suburbs to the wealthy, sunny Cote d’Azur at such a young age could have made others go inside themselves.

Not the boy from Bondy.


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