Spain and Barcelona legend Xavi proved full of praise for Paris Saint-Germain prodigy Kylian Mbappé in an interview with Spanish daily El Pais, but also had some wise words for the France star of tomorrow.
When asked whether Mbappé has more potential than any other player behind Lionel Messi, 37-year-old Xavi made it clear that he feels the time will come when the 19-year-old superstar will be the best in the world.
"I think there will be a while after Messi and Cristiano [Ronaldo] when Neymar will be the reference point," declared the World Cup winning midfielder. "Especially as he is Brazilian; Brazil have every chance of making it to a World Cup final. The Neymar era will last three or four years, and then Mbappé's time will come. He has mad potential. And he is still young; he's only 19. He is a monster."
However, the lynchpin of Barcelona's and Spain's uber-successful tiki-taka playing style, whose silky skills and nuanced appreciation of the game reduced many world-class sides to the status of mere spectators, feels that France's next superstar still needs to improve.
Room for growth
"I think that talent beats physical gifts. Neymar is like Messi: talent and physicality. I think that Mbappé has more physical gifts than talent," Xavi explained. "Players who have been truly gifted have both: Maradona, Pelé, Ronaldo, Messi, Neymar. Mbappé has talent too, but I see him as more of a [Thierry] Henry.
"Mbappé needs to improve numerous things in terms of his understanding of the game. Because, when he was a kid, he didn't need to think; he made the difference thanks to his power and pace. I would like to see Mbappé up against a defence like that of Atlético Madrid. The way I see things, right now Neymar is the better player."