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What would Kylian Mbappe’s biggest challenges be at Real Madrid? Coexisting in attack with Vini Jr. and more

Written by on May 14, 2024

With Kylian Mbappe now officially leaving Paris Saint-Germain this summer, thoughts turn to what is coming next for the France international with Real Madrid the overwhelming favorites to land him once his contract expires at Parc des Princes. The Spanish champions could be about to add another UEFA Champions League title to their honors list so Mbappe could feasibly be arriving in Madrid to play for defending double winners which is not the easiest situation to be greeted by. Carlo Ancelotti’s side are a well-oiled machine and the 25-year-old is not necessarily going to be an immediate fit into the current side without a bit of work for the Italian tactician in terms of rejigging his starting XI.

So what are the biggest challenges that Mbappe will face with Real next year?

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Slotting into the current attack

The most obvious question is where does Mbappe fit? The answer to that — obviously — is in attack but where in attack given Vini Jr. on the left and Jude Bellingham in the middle in an advanced role which places Rodrygo on the right. Logically, Mbappe must be played in a more central position which has not necessarily been a convincing one for him so far, and would certainly impact the England international in terms of immediate positioning. It will also likely create a clash between Mbappe and Vini Jr. who essentially plays in the same position as Les Bleus’ captain and certainly brings the most impact in the same left-sided area of the field.

Earning Ancelotti’s trust

What happens between Mbappe and Vini Jr. will be particularly telling in the first few months as Ancelotti will have to assess which player brings more in their natural left-sided wide berth but also — and more importantly — who is most convincing through the middle. Whoever that turns out to be will likely be asked to persevere in that position when Real play at 100% and if that happens, then Ancelotti’s star whisperer status will come to the fore tenfold. If there is one coach in world soccer who can command the respect of Mbappe from the off in Madrid then it is the Italian master and the pair’s relationship from the very first moment will be of huge importance to defining how the Frenchman’s start to life is with Real.

No longer an only star

In Paris, Mbappe has evolved from being a growing fish in a big pond to a larger creature in a substantial expanse of water and finally a gargantuan specimen in an increasingly smaller environment. Going to Real now, at 25 years of age and after seven years or so of being the golden boy of French soccer, Mbappe is not necessarily going to be the only attraction at Santiago Bernabeu although he will be far be its newest and most exciting new exhibit. How will the Bondy-born talent react to sharing the limelight with teammates of a similar stature to him, albeit not quite at the same level of superstardom?

Showing his hunger to win

One major criticism of Mbappe during his career so far has been a perceived lack of ambition with PSG and over such a lengthy period in Ligue 1. Despite the lack of Champions League success in Paris, the iconic No. 7 has racked up impressive silverware numbers given his age and the expectation is that he will continue to do so with Real. However, how strong will his personal hunger be when he walks into what could be a defending UCL titleholder squad out to defend this season’s trophies instead of winning them over again? That will be one of the strongest challenges of all for Mbappe to overcome in Madrid given the frustrations from the end of his time at Parc des Princes.

Living up to Zidane and Benzema

Finally, there is the obvious obstacle of following in the footsteps of the likes of not only Cristiano Ronaldo but also Zinedine Zidane and Karim Benzema. Mbappe’s two compatriots won the Ballon d’Or during their careers but Zizou’s triumph came with Juventus while Benzema had to wait years to be thriving as the main man. Ronaldo, though, won four of his five titles during his stay with Real and that is arguably the biggest challenge of all given the impact that the Portuguese superstar has had on modern soccer as part of his rivalry with Barcelona great Lionel Messi. Will there be another Barca star to rival Mbappe? Perhaps that might be the greatest motivator for the Parisien prodigy as he seeks to write another page of his own.

The post What would Kylian Mbappe’s biggest challenges be at Real Madrid? Coexisting in attack with Vini Jr. and more first appeared on CBS Sports.

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