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Kylian Mbappe

Analysis: How Kylian Mbappe could fit in at Real Madrid

Although the transfer window has barely opened yet, Kylian Mbappe joining Real Madrid will undoubtedly be the biggest move of the summer.

The French superstar has flirted with the Spanish giants for some time now, but his arrival was delayed when he signed a big-money two-year contract extension with Paris Saint-Germain last year.

However, the contract was only a one-year deal with an option to extend for another, which Mbappé decided not to trigger.

So, at the end of this season, he prepared to leave the French capital as PSG’s all-time top scorer, with 256 goals and 108 assists in 308 appearances.

Little need to be said of the French international’s talent and quality – it would be very easy to make a case for him as the best currently active footballer. Surely, then, absolutely any club in the world would be glad to have him.

Madrid are strong enough without him as this season showed, but they will be excited to see Mbappe added to the squad.

Some pundits have suggested that his addition could imbalance the team, but that should not be a concern as we will explore.

Mbappe’s Profile

It is worth getting a quick overview of what sort of player Mbappe is.

The Frenchman has spent a decent amount of time in all positions across a front three during his career.

In recent years in Paris, he has undoubtedly preferred playing off the left wing, although Luis Enrique has often deployed him as a central striker to better suit the team.

Mbappe’s heatmap from the last season shows a decent central cluster besides a heavy presence on the left.

(Image credit: Sofascore)

The red zone which denotes his most frequent areas of involvement sums up his approach pretty well. He likes to receive the ball on the left and drive towards the goal before firing shots away.

(Image credit: FotMob)

Mbappe’s shooting with his favoured right foot is world-class, both in terms of shot power and accuracy.

He is exceptional at picking out the corners on either side of the goal and disguising his intentions with a consistent body shape.

Add to that the venom he gets behind his shots, and it is easy to see why goalkeepers find it so difficult to stop him when he hits the target.

Putting everything together explains his sustained significant xG overperformance in the last six seasons.

The 25-year-old forward is more of a shooter than a chance creator, although he also has much more in his arsenal.

As his pizza chart shows, Mbappe is outstanding at almost everything except defending, which can be easily excused because he tends to stay in as dangerous a position as possible high up the pitch when his team do not have the ball to pose a serious counter-attacking threat.

He receives plenty of progressive passes, is a dazzling dribbler at high speed, gets into the box quite a bit and certainly takes his chances.

Potential Fit at Madrid

The concern many people have raised about Mbappe’s addition to Madrid is that he is another left winger joining an already left-heavy attack which includes Vinicius Junior, Jude Bellingham and Rodrygo.

Ironically, the answer lies in the problem itself. With 40 percent of their attacks coming down the left wing this season, Madrid have shown that an attack heavily biased to one side can work provided it has enough firepower.

They unquestionably had that as they were La Liga’s top scorers with 87 goals in 38 games.

Simply knowing that a team prefer to attack down one side is not enough to be able to stop them when they have world-class operators out there.

Picture this – Vinicius dribbling in from the touchline, Bellingham drifting into pockets of space to link up with his teammates and Mbappe threatening in the channel at the top of the line.

No defence in the world will be able to stop this left-wing trio.

Madrid have adopted an incredibly fluid style of play under Carlo Ancelotti which went up another notch when Bellingham joined them last summer and enabled them to switch to a 4-3-1-2 formation.

In this system, it is pointless assigning fixed positions to attackers, but the aforementioned scenario will likely be the one we see the most.

Contrary to some fans’ fears, Mbappe and Vinicius should not get in each other’s way but rather benefit from the other’s proximal presence.

The Brazilian winger likes to start as wide as possible along the touchline and drive forward or inside from there, whereas Mbappe prefers to start in the channel where he can both threaten in behind or receive the ball and have a clear and direct route to goal.

They can easily start on the same wing and benefit from the attention opposing defenders give to one or the other.

Even a player as good as Mbappé has room for improvement. He could add another dimension to his and Madrid’s threat with improved off-ball movement in central areas and better link-up play with his back to goal, although even five defenders would scarcely be enough to stop him and Vinicius alone.

In terms of their formation on paper, Madrid might be best off switching to a 4-2-3-1 with Mbappe as a nominal striker, although he will likely drift to the left as we have discussed.

Vinícius will start on the left and Bellingham down the middle as ever, while the right-wing position might be there for the taking.

The candidates in the current squad include Rodrygo, who may have drifted out to the left more last term but can certainly play on the right having done so at times in 2023/24 and regularly in previous seasons.

He – or fellow Brazilian youngster Endrick – will be the most attack-minded options for the right-wing role, while Federico Valverde could be used to provide greater support to the midfield.

Ultimately, the equation is straightforward. Ancelotti will always ensure that a great player joining a great team will only lead to both parties benefitting.

This transfer can only turn out one way – not least because both Madrid and Mbappe are too good to flop.

Stats courtesy Transfermarkt and Opta via Sofascore, Fbref and FotMob.

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