The France star put the aging Argentina midfielder away for good.
Against Argentina, Kylian Mbappé announced himself to the world. Though he’s still only 19 years old, he’s not really a new talent. In August of 2017, he was sent on loan from Monaco to Paris Saint-Germain, with the full transfer fee being put at £166m, which would make him the second most expensive player ever if exercised. His teammate Neymar holds the title for most expensive.
In his first season at PSG, Mbappé finished with 21 goals in 44 games, and for most fans of European soccer, he’s considered one of if not the most talented youngster in the world.
Against Argentina, he was so devastating and un-markable that every time he got the ball in space, Argentina’s defense, a collection of old and slow men, looked as if they were on the verge of calling to a higher power for help. Mbappé won a penalty for France’s first goal and scored two himself, becoming the first teenager since Pele to score twice in the World Cup.
Mbappé’s future is bright, and in time we will properly admire and praise him, but what I want to talk about right now is what he did to Javier Mascherano before he won the penalty. Just as Gareth Bale announced himself by separating Maicon’s soul from his body and sending it into purgatory, Mbappé began his dominance of Argentina by making it very clear and obvious to Mascherano that the Argentinean had no longer had any place in the higher levels of the beautiful game. It was Marcos Rojo who conceded the penalty, but it was Mascherano who suffered the most.
Mbappé made a solo run from his own defensive third to Argentina’s box that exemplified how ridiculous he really is. His first touch took him past two players, and into open space against Mascherano. Mbappé is fast. He’s so fast that he makes other fast players look like Olivier Giroud, which makes Giroud look like Gabriel Mercado, a player who is so slow that he must have been the model for the Sloth in Zootopia. It is no shame to lose to Mbappé in a foot race but Mascherano must have felt as if the gods were calling him home, that he was being told by the universe itself to hang up his boots, say his goodbyes, shed the proper tears needed and walk away from the game that he’s loved so much.
In open space, he chased Mbappé and it was one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen. Mascherano’s feet were moving so quickly. He was pumping them as hard as he could. He was trying his best to keep up the chase and it was pathetic. His mind was straining against the limitations of his old and broken body to catch up to the teenager, and Mbappé barely even noticed him. Mbappé’s run was Mascherano’s memento mori, a reminder that he is a man who will fade away like the generations of men before him.
In his prime, back when he was a young man, Mascherano could have probably stayed with Mbappé and maybe slowed him down. But in his post torn-anus form, when his flesh and bones have become heavy with age, and already on a yellow card, all Mascherano caught at the end of his chase was the stunning realization that time and the world moves forward and leaves all of us behind, warriors included.
Last January, Mascherano announced his unofficial retirement from high-level club soccer by leaving Barcelona for Hebei China Fortune of the Chinese Super League. After France beat Argentina, he announced his retirement from international soccer. It was a decision that was going to come at the end of the tournament, regardless of how well Argentina did. Mascherano has been a shell of his former self for some years now, but if there had been any doubt in his mind or in the minds of people in the world that it was time for him to ride off into the sunset, Mbappé put an end to that speculation.
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