Paris, Feb 17 (efe-epa).- On his first visit to the iconic Camp Nou, Frenchman Kylian Mbappe put on a dazzling performance, arguably his best since he joined Paris Saint Germain in 2018, as he outshone Lionel Messi.
The 22-year-old led an injury-plagued PSG, missing Brazilian star Neymar, to expose a vulnerable Barcelona defensive line and became the first opposition player to score a Champions League hat trick at the Camp Nou in 23 years.
Mbappe increased his tally in the Champions League knockout stages with PSG to four, having scored in five with his previous club, Monaco. During his time there, he scored against Manchester City in last-16 and Borussia Dortmund in quarterfinals in 2017, drawing attention of the continent’s powerhouses.
The Frenchman — who is already a World Cup winner — has a year and a half left in his contract with PSG, and many pundits assume he is destined for greater clubs in England, or more like, Spain, with Real Madrid touted as potential suitors.
But after the game, Mbappe downplayed the potential impact of the hat-trick on whether he decides to stay at the club or look for an adventure elsewhere, insisting his focus remains on Paris.
The three-goal salvo could make him feel more valued at a club where he is often overshadowed by Neymar or convince PSG and new manager Mauricio Pochettino that he is the player to build its project around.
The 22-year-old is aware that PSG is now firmly established among Europe’s elite clubs, with last year’s defeated finalists proving they are capable of competing against the best after handing such a heavy defeat to Barcelona, who remain one of the continent’s leading teams, despite their recent troubles.
And Mbappe has showed that he could be a major asset for the team, even when there is a great deal at stake, after several seasons of disappointment at the business end of the competition.
Over the past four seasons, he scored 15 Champions League goals, although all came in the group stages, with the only exception being when he scored against Manchester United in the last-16 in 2019.
But he had failed to score since then, a drought that sparked doubts over his character as a leader.