Kylian Mbappe has been hailed as the next Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi after scoring a wonderful hat trick in Paris Saint-Germain’s 4-1 victory away at Barcelona in the Champions League.
Mbappe’s pace and finishing proved a constant threat throughout as he left Barça with a mountain to climb ahead of the second leg of the round of 16 tie at the Parc des Princes.
The Frenchman’s performance earned him praise from players across Europe, including Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford, Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho and fellow countryman Antoine Griezmann, who was on the losing end of Mbappe’s hat trick on Tuesday.
“Kylian had a great night,” said Griezmann. “PSG have a star for the future, who will be at the same level as Leo Messi or Cristiano.”
Mbappe’s first goal, a riffled shot into the roof of the net, canceled out Messi’s earlier penalty for Barcelona.
The 22-year-old added his second after half-time as Barcelona cleared an attempted cross into his path before Moise Kean headed in a third for PSG.
Mbappe completed his hat trick by finishing a quick counterattack in the closing stages.
After the game, PSG boss Mauricio Pochettino praised his striker’s confidence.
“Yesterday in our training session, he asked me how many times I had won at the Camp Nou,” said Pochettino. “I said once with Espanyol, and he assured me that tonight I’d win for a second time. He’s a top guy.”
Mbappe also earned a rare nine out of 10 for his performance from French newspaper L’Equipe – renowned for its harsh player ratings – and the internet has already witnessed an outpouring of memes after Gerard Pique struggled against the pace of his opposing striker.
It also means Mbappe has won both times he has faced Messi, who, with his Barcelona contract ending after this season, may have played his final Champions League game at the Camp Nou.
Mbappe outshines Messi
Many had hoped the game between two European titans would be good value and they weren’t disappointed.
Barcelona had seemingly turned a corner in recent weeks after a difficult start to the season. The Catalans had been on a run of seven consecutive La Liga victories but were simply torn apart by PSG.
The host side took the lead in familiar fashion after Frenkie de Jong was accidentally tripped inside the penalty box. Messi expertly dispatched the resulting spot-kick to score in the Champions League for the 17th consecutive calendar year.
But it was all PSG from that moment on and, in the absence of Neymar, it was Mbappe who took center stage and outshone Messi.
He became only the third player in history to score a Champions League hat trick against Barcelona in what was his first match at the Camp Nou.
“We wanted to come here and win and we did that in style,” said Mbappe, who played in PSG’s Champions League final defeat by Bayern Munich last year.
“Tonight was magnificent, but we haven’t won anything yet.”
The result leaves Barça asking big questions about the quality of its squad.
Aside from a few moments of magic in the first half, Messi went missing for much of the encounter, and Barcelona’s defense, which welcomed back Gerard Pique after a three-month injury layoff, looked vulnerable.
Ronald Koeman’s side can take some comfort in history, though: Barcelona had trailed PSG 4-0 in the 2017 edition of the tournament before turning the result around in the second leg with a 6-1 victory.
But speaking after the match, Koeman wasn’t holding out much hope.
“The result reflects how superior PSG were, they were much more effective than us,” he told reporters.
“I could tell you lies but the fact is that at 4-1 down from the home leg, there are very few chances of going through.”
Liverpool in control
Elsewhere in the Champions League, Liverpool took control of its last 16 tie with RB Leipzig.
The English Premier League side was worthy of its 2-0 away victory thanks to goals from Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.
The result will come as a huge relief after a tough few weeks domestically for the Reds and their manager.
“It was the game we wanted and the game we needed tonight,” Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp told BT Sport.
“Leipzig can be a real monster, the way they played in the Bundesliga, they overrun teams, they are really physical, they are pretty much good in everything and tonight we controlled them in an exceptional way.”
Liverpool will host its German opponent in the second leg on March 10.