Situated in a lavish corner of France, AS Monaco’s famed football academy has produced some of the game’s biggest stars.
Four integral parts of France’s historic World Cup-winning team of 1998 – Thierry Henry, Lilian Thuram, Emmanuel Petit and David Trezeguet – were nurtured there.
But there is a new star who has since emerged and has the capacity to surpass them all: Kylian Mbappe.
The teenager arguably shone brighter than any other player in Russia, winning the young player of the tournament award and leading his country to only its second World Cup triumph. And all this at the age of 19.
Ahead of Sunday’s World Cup final between France and Croatia, CNN Sport spoke to Vadim Vasilyev, AS Monaco’s vice-president, who played a key role in Mbappe signing his first professional contract with the Ligue 1 club.
When was the first time you saw him play football and what were your first thoughts and feelings?
“When I first heard about him my colleagues said: ‘Look, we have a very talented boy, we have to sign him.’ So I said: ‘What’s the problem? Let’s sign him.’ They said it wasn’t easy and it turned out there were some complications.
“He was not really very happy and actually he wanted to go. I started seeing his parents and watching him in training and I sent him to the first team to train with our coach (Leonardo) Jardim. They said: ‘Wow, how come this boy is in our academy and I didn’t know about it.’ We built a relationship of trust and then he signed his pro contract.”
Many people expected him to be a star, but did you think it would all happen before he was even 20 years old?
“Two years ago, or perhaps even more, I knew that he was a phenomenon. It’s not just ‘very good,’ it’s not ‘top,’ it’s a phenomenal player.
“He has all the ingredients, then of course it all went very quickly; becoming French champion with us, going to the semifinal of the Champions League and now the World Cup. It all went quick for sure but if you know the quality he has and the kind of person he is, then I’m not surprised really.