Kylian Mbappé is sore. It’s November, and last night Mbappé’s Paris Saint-Germain fought out a bitter draw with Newcastle in the Champions League group stage at the Parc des Princes. Mbappé scored a penalty in stoppage time, rescuing a point after a frustrating team performance. But if he’s sour about it, Mbappé doesn’t show it, today dressed casually in a plain black T-shirt and a loose-fitting pastel-coloured Jordan tracksuit, Hublot Big Bang One Click peeking out from the sleeve. “Football is a complex thing and you quickly forget the positive experiences as well as the negative ones,” he tells me. “You always have to adapt and reinvent yourself.”

A few post-game aches are standard for Mbappé, a player who, at 25, has already played more than 400 games at the summit of men’s soccer. After breaking through as a teenage sensation at AS Monaco, Mbappé won the World Cup with France at just 19. In 2017, he moved to PSG for €180 million ($215 million), becoming the most expensive teenage player ever and one of the most expensive jewels in an all-star team that for two seasons included Neymar and Lionel Messi. He is already Paris Saint-Germain’s all-time top scorer; it seems likely that sooner or later, he’ll achieve the same status with the French national team. (Along the way he became the youngest player ever to reach the shortlist for the Ballon d’Or.)

Coat sweater shirt pants and boots by Dior Men.

Coat, sweater, shirt, pants, and boots by Dior Men.

In that time, Mbappé says, he has learned what it takes to keep his body in peak condition: more stretching before matches, more time in the hands of physiotherapists afterwards. “It’s all that largely invisible work that makes it possible to string together matches and come back more easily from any injury,” he says, while also emphasizing that unlike some players he prefers to draw a clear line between his professional and private life. “I have a well-equipped home gym, but I prefer to spend as much time as possible at the training center and do whatever I have to do there, even if it means staying late. Recovery is also mental. The club is work, and home is a chill space where I’m more relaxed and where I get to spend time with my family, who I don’t get to see often enough.”

This season marks a new pivot point for Mbappé. In July, Messi left PSG for Inter Miami and the MLS. A month later, Neymar moved to Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal. The twin departures marked the dismantling of one of the most electric forward lines in football, but Mbappé says he’s unfazed, by both the burden he now shoulders and the tumult within the global game. “Many great players who have shaped the history of football have left Europe this summer and we are entering a new era,” Mbappé says. “It’s become part of the cycle of this sport and at some point it will be my turn to leave. I’m not worried about these changes. I’m simply thinking about continuing my career and following my own path.”

Mbappé likes to control every aspect of his image, savvy about how he presents himself to the world. But, throughout our conversation, I can’t help but note that there’s a childlike enthusiasm about him, and his obsession with winning. “The desire to win, to go beyond the limits of what is possible, and to do great things is deeply ingrained in me. I think I owe it to the education and guidance I received both on and off the pitch, which helped me to build myself as a player and as a man,” he says. “We tend to forget it, but we’re eternally children when we play football. The level at which we play the game changes, but the mentality doesn’t. The passion is constant through the years.”

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