Former Chelsea scout reveals why club didn't sign Kylian Mbappé as a teenager
They will be regretting the decision not to sign him now
Every so often, stories emerge of Premier League clubs missing out on the chance to sign players who went on to become superstars. They normally involve Arsène Wenger. The former Arsenal boss famously missed out on signing Cristiano Ronaldo before he joined Manchester United, as well as Yaya Touré, who had a trial at Arsenal and played a friendly against Barnet, a game in which his performance was described as "completely average" by Wenger.
This one doesn't involve Wenger, but it's always worth remembering those missed opportunities. This story involves Chelsea and a teenage who went on to win two Ligue 1 titles and one World Cup before turning 20: Kylian Mbappé.
As Chelsea's former scout Serge Daniel Boga told Goal: "Chelsea were the first ones to give him a trial. We did it before Real Madrid. I had a friend who worked for Nike, Denis Chantron, and when I was in France, we met and he said 'Have you heard of this young boy called Mbappe? He plays for Bondy, this small club from the suburbs of Paris'.
"I said I hadn't and he said 'You have to watch him.' I went there and watched him and I called him back straight away and I said 'Listen, this boy is really something.'
"I told Chelsea about him and let them do their thing. I called everyone at Chelsea whom I dealt with, like Jim Fraser. I said ‘Listen, I have this kid you have to look at.
“I brought him over with his family. He was skilful, like he is now. He played against Charlton and won 7-0.
"After a week at Chelsea, we went into the office. We said ‘Listen, we appreciate what we saw from you but we have to invite you back for another trial and we'll see after that."
“I remember what the mother said to this day. She spoke in French to Fraser and I was translating. She said to me, 'Listen, my boy won't be coming back. If they want him they have to take him now or in five year's time they will be coming back to buy him for €50 million!'", Boga recalls.
"She was right, though. It wasn't even €50m but €180m that someone would pay. So, she knew the quality of her son and she was right."
As it panned out, Chelsea probably should have taken her up on the offer and signed him then and there. However, he could have easily ended up in the 40-strong loan army of Chelsea players sent out to various European clubs every summer. They'd have received a hefty fee for him, at least.
Boga went on to describe Mbappé's lack of defensive work rate as a key weakness. “He was very skilful but in England they want to see the player track back and be a hard worker. At the time, he wasn't a hard worker," Boga told Goal. "Defensively, he wasn't there yet. When he got the ball, he was unbelievable, but without the ball, he didn't work a lot."
"Chelsea wanted to see him again to see how he could improve on this. I think that's why they asked him back. He did skilful things and dribbled well. So, maybe the things they wanted to see in the second trial was improved work on the defensive side.