Kylian Mbappe is a superstar hailed by many but all the attention is on his off-field antics

From the dozens of fans on the Eurostar to the guard shouting ‘Allez les Bleus’ as it pulled into Gare du Nord, to the posters and promotions dotted throughout the city, Paris has caught rugby fever.

France captain Kylian Mbappe is a hero to many in France, particularly the younger generation

Yet even if France prevail in the World Cup Final at the Stade De France on October 29, none of their stars will eclipse the profile of the man who led out his country at Parc des Princes on Thursday night.

To others, however, he has led PSG in a merry dance over his contract over the last two years

To many, especially France’s younger generation, Kylian Mbappe is a hero, one of the greatest athletes in French history. To others, he is a wealthy prima donna who has led Paris St Germain a merry dance in the last two summers.

‘Without him we wouldn’t have come close to winning the World Cup,’ says Frederic, in town to watch France’s Euro 2024 qualifier against Ireland and recalling Mbappe’s hat-trick in last December’s Final against Argentina, though he could not prevent defeat on penalties.

The forward has a desire to have complete control over every aspect of his career, including his club's transfers

‘Sure, he’s a wonderful footballer,’ counters Marie. ‘But perhaps there’s a bit too much noise around him now. He’s become as much of a global brand as a sportsman.’

Watching Mbappe on Thursday was to imagine what it might have felt like to experience the Elvis Presley phenomenon, or Beatlemania at its height. When he curled one in off the bar during the warm-up, excited screams filled the air.

A year ago Mbappe did not take part in a photoshoot in a reported row over his image rights

When he waved to one group of fans midway through a passing drill with Ousmane Dembele, they again reacted like giddy teenagers. Yet for the first half, the best in the world was the worst on the pitch.

Mbappe was all ego – wandering where he wanted, demanding the ball in strange areas, slowing play down and attempting showy tricks where simplicity was required. The 24-year-old is so talented that he still made an impact on the second half but the captain’s focus seemed to be more on himself than on his team.

During the World Cup in Qatar he would turn the 'Player of the Match' Trophy around so the sponsor's (Budweiser) logo could not be seen in official photos

This plays into Mbappe’s approach off the pitch, too. To speak to those who follow Mbappe closely is to understand his desire to have complete control over every aspect of his career – the owner and chief executive of ‘Brand Mbappe’. It is not enough simply to be the best footballer on the planet.

In that way, the 24-year-old is more like a top actor or musician, or superstar American athlete like Tom Brady or LeBron James.

When he was chosen over Antoine Griezmann (left) as the next France captain, Mbappe spoke highly of his colleague's leadership skills

He wants the final say over his own transfers and also to influence Paris St Germain’s recruitment strategy. If Mbappe genuinely does believe PSG should be less superstar-led and grounded more in French talent, then the club have certainly listened. Lionel Messi and Neymar have departed and Dembele, Lucas Hernandez and Randal Kolo Muani have arrived, while PSG also looked at Marcus Thuram before he moved to Inter Milan. All are Mbappe’s colleagues from the national side.

When signing a new deal with PSG, he held a shirt with 'Mbappe 2025' on the back - the deal was not until 2025

Nor will Mbappe simply allow marketing experts or agents to take charge his commercial endorsements and how his image is managed.

A year ago, Mbappe did not take part in a photoshoot with the rest of the national side in a reported row over image rights, with suggestions that Mbappe was uncomfortable with the French FA’s partnerships with betting and fast-food companies.

The forward was thought to have been uncomfortable with the shirt during the presentation

He has used his social media account to criticise an online betting company and when he collected man-of-the-match awards in Qatar, Mbappe rotated the trophy in official photos, hiding the logo of a beer manufacturer in doing so.

Mbappe is a sharp, well-educated man, who speaks excellent English and forged a friendship with Madrid-born PSG team-mate Achraf Hakimi largely because he has an impressive grasp of Spanish, too. When Mbappe broke through as an 18-year-old at Monaco, club officials remarked that he appeared smarter and more mature than players 10 years older.

PSG wanted the 24-year-old to either sign a new contract or leave - neither has happened

He is politically astute, too: when Antoine Griezmann was overlooked in favour of Mbappe for the France captaincy, Mbappe spoke warmly of Griezmann’s leadership skills at every turn. It felt significant that Griezmann, rather than Mbappe, attended the pre-match press conference for the Ireland game that is usually held by coach and captain.

He will likely leave the French club for Real Madrid on a free transfer at the end of the season

Cleverer than Real Madrid, where he will arrive on his own terms and effectively write his own contract.

Cleverer than Al-Hilal, whose mind-blowing £170m annual salary offer he ignored despite PSG accepting the Saudi Pro League club’s £260m bid.

Kylian Mbappe is a superstar hailed by many but all the attention is on his  off-field antics... Sharp and astute, he has outmanoeuvred both PSG and Real  Madrid ahead of his inevitable

Provided there are no more late twists, it will be fascinating to see what happens when the world’s biggest sporting brand links up with one of its greatest sporting institutions in La Liga next season. If Madrid thought Cristiano Ronaldo was big business, they have seen nothing yet.

Mbappe will not train with PSG first-team squad

For the rest of his career, Mbappe will surely have what he wants, when he wants it, but at what cost? Every wealthy hero craves the thing no money can buy – love. The dozens of ‘Mbappe 10’ shirts at the Parc des Princes on Thursday prove he is still widely adored. He would be wise, however, not to take this for granted and he strives for perfection on and off the field.

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