Kylian Mbappé has made huge strides forward in the three years since bursting onto the scene, but his Paris Saint-Germain teammate Abdou Diallo has told This is Paris on BeIN SPORTS: "That's how a phenomenon should develop!"
Mbappé came sixth in this year's Ballon d'Or rankings after another stellar year in which the 20-year-old has continued his meteoric upward trajectory. A thigh injury meant his opening to the 2019/20 season was disrupted, but he is now fit again and has netted five league goals already, taking his career tally to 67 in just 105 top-flight appearances.
Diallo first met Mbappé during their time together at AS Monaco, and is not surprised how the FIFA World Cup winner has taken the game by storm.
"We're team-mates once again! So it's back to how it was during the good old days at Monaco!" said Diallo, who left the principality for Mainz in summer 2017 at the same time as Mbappé joined PSG.
"He's since progressed in every aspect of his game, and personality-wise too! He's gained in confidence, he reads the game better, he's faster and stronger than before but that doesn't surprise me. That's how a phenomenon should develop!"
The pair were reunited when the French champions made a move to bring Diallo back to his native country last summer, and his familiarity with a number of the PSG squad made the switch all the smoother.
'Coming here was easy'
"Of course the fact that I knew people there already made it an attractive club to join. Kylian helped me feel at home, so did Layvin Kurzawa and Presnel Kimpembe, I knew them already too, so it was cool!" he said. "My friends and family live in the Paris area…it's France, the country I'm from, so coming here was as easy as 1, 2, 3!"
Finding a place in Thomas Tuchel's talent-packed squad is not quite as simple, but the 23-year-old's ability to play just as comfortably at centre-back or left-back — as he did with Borussia Dortmund last season — has meant he has featured in 11 of the league leaders' 15 games to date, 10 of which have been starts.
"I've had a good amount of game time! I’ve had a lot less in the Champions League, but that's called competition for places," he explains, admitting he and his teammates still have room for improvement despite leading Ligue 1 Conforama and clinching their place in the Champions League Last 16 as group winners.
"Results don't always tell the whole story, and that works both ways. We can win 4 or 5-0 without playing exceptionally well! Other times we can be beaten despite dominating, so I don't just analyse the results we've had, I look at how we've played… and when you look at how we play, it's not been quite so much of a rollercoaster! We've got things we need to work on, we're not perfect by any means, so we're going to keep at it!"