Kylian Mbappe has told Marca that Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo was his “idol” as a child but hopes he and his Paris Saint-Germain teammates can “send a message to the world” by scoring a landmark Champions League win at the home of the club that also tried to sign him last summer.
The 19-year-old joined PSG on a season-long loan from Monaco in August after scoring 27 goals in all competitions last season, with the French giants holding a mandatory purchase clause.
Champions League holders Real showed a strong interest in the France international and Mbappe told Marca: “There were a lot of transfer rumours, it’s true that we spoke, but I think that is now in the past for me and for Real Madrid. Now I play at PSG and I’m going to defend these colours 100 percent.
“I chose PSG because it’s the team of my city, it’s like if a madrileno [Madrid born] boy of [Real] Madrid has the opportunity to play for his team and goes elsewhere, to another country. I wanted to play for PSG and I’m very happy with how things are going.”
Mbappe believes his team can overtake Real and become “the best team in the world.”
He said: “I’m very young. There’s time but as I say, I want to play in the best team in the world in the future and I believe PSG has everything to achieve that. If this team grows with me, there is no reason to leave.”
PSG have invested heavily in their team since Nasser Al-Khelaifi bought the club in 2011, notably in world-record signing Neymar and Mbappe last summer.
“Real have dominated football in recent years but it’s not just them now,” Mbappe said. “There are other big teams, like [Manchester] City, Juventus, Bayern [Munich] and we are also there. But I believe the team that wins our tie will be clear favourites to win the Champions League. If we are capable of eliminating Real then the other teams will fear us.”
Real host PSG on Feb. 14 in the Champions League round-of-16 first leg before the return leg in Paris three weeks later. “We know that at the Bernabeu we can send a message to the world,” Mbappe said. “It’s a game that can be a turning point in our history against the defending champions and we are all very motivated.”
PSG topped Group B ahead of Bayern while Real finished second behind Tottenham in Group H.
“We’ve had a very good group stage and we have the opportunity to prove to the world that we can eliminate the team that successfully defended the Champions League,” Mbappe said. “There is no pressure, not at all, the pressure doesn’t fall on us.
“We will go there to play our game, show our football and give everything to qualify. We are two of the best teams in the world. Real are the best team in the world, they have won the Champions League two times in a row and we are growing.
“I think it’s going to be a great tie and we will go to the Bernabeu determined to qualify. We respect every team but as soon as we arrive at the Bernabeu, there will no more respect. It will be a case of showing our quality.”
Mbappe says he will not be intimidated by the atmosphere at the Bernabeu stadium or by facing Ronaldo.
“I’ve played in many big venues, but never at the Bernabeu,” he said. “It will be my first time and the truth is that I want to take a good look the day before the game and prepare well.
“Cristiano was my idol when I was young and it was great to meet him when I went to [Real’s training ground] Valdebebas. I adored him when I was young but that ended. He’s a great player but we also have them [great players] here. I have Neymar here who I believe is very similar and is practically at the same level as Cristiano. I’m learning, too, from Cavani, who is a goal scorer.
“But I’m a competitor and what I want is to win. I don’t care who I have in front of me.”
PSG were the highest scoring team in the competition in the group stage — with their 25-goal haul this season a record for that phase of the competition — and a combined 16 were scored by the attacking trio of Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Mbappe.
“We don’t think about being the best attack in the world, but being the best team in the world,” Mbappe said. “What we want is to win, to be competitive. It’s good that we are considered the best attack in the world but that doesn’t guarantee anything.
“I want to win every possible title and that is why I work hard, in order to achieve that aim.
“Records are there to be beaten and that gives me confidence, but there’s nothing like titles.”
Adriana Garcia is a Valencia-based football writer who covers La Liga for ESPN FC.