Kylian Mbappe is excited by the challenge of taking on childhood hero Cristiano Ronaldo and France “icon” Zinedine Zidane when Paris Saint-Germain meet Real Madrid in the Champions League last 16.
PSG were given scant reward for topping a group that contained Bayern Munich as they were paired with the reigning European champions, who finished second in their pool behind Tottenham.
Madrid’s stuttering form this season perhaps has the runaway Ligue 1 leaders as favourites for the tie, which will see Mbappe take on a club he has revealed he came close to joining before sealing a move – initially on a season-long loan – to PSG.
But the presence of Ballon d’Or holder Ronaldo will keep Madrid interested, as well as providing motivation for Mbappe to shine in the knockout stages once again after his starring role for Monaco last term.
“He is a hero from my childhood and it was amazing to meet him when I visited Valdebebas,” Mbappe told Marca of Ronaldo.
“But I am a competitor and a person who is very competitive and all I want to do is win, win, win. So it doesn’t really matter who is in front of us, we want to win.
“I admired him when I was younger, but that ended. Now I go to the Bernabeu to play and to win.
“You learn from them, of course. From someone who has won five Ballons d’Or you can learn a lot.
“He’s a great player, but I have those here too.
“Neymar is here and I think he is very similar and is at practically the same level as Cristiano Ronaldo. I learn from [Edinson] Cavani as a goalscorer too.”
Asked to name a homegrown icon from his childhood, Mbappe was quick to praise the man that will be in the opposition dugout.
“Well, I had Zidane. But everyone in France loved Zidane,” he added.
“Anyone who likes football knows that he is a special case. What he is doing with Real Madrid since he became a coach is incredible, because I know that in that club it’s not easy.
“He’s taken a lot of pressure, maybe because he knows the club very well from his time as a player. He won the respect of everyone and I’m pleased for Zidane, for everything he’s achieved.”
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