Lille star Rafael Leao dismisses comparisons with Kylian Mbappe

19-year-old forward Rafael Leao insists he still has a very long way to go before he can become an equal of the “accomplished” Kylian Mbappe.

The Portugal U-21 international started out his playing career in his homeland at Sporting Lisbon, where he graduated into the senior team last year and managed two goals with an assist in five games.

But a training ground incident last May saw several players and staff members attacked by around 50 fans, which led to Leao and several of his teammates terminating their contracts at Sporting.

The U-17 European champion then sealed a free transfer to Lille OSC and has since made a great impression over in France with seven goals in 14 Ligue 1 appearances to help the club move up to second in the standings.

Leao’s breakout campaign over in France has led to fans dubbing him the “Portuguese Mbappe”.

However, while Leao regards the Paris Saint-Germain forward as a “source of inspiration” for him, the teenage star believes he hasn’t earned the right yet to be compared to Mbappe.

“I try not to pay attention,” Leao told Le Parisien. “Mbappe is an accomplished player.

“He has already shown everyone his potential and won several big titles. I still have everything to prove, many things to learn to become a great striker like him.

“He is a source of inspiration, a model. But I’m not Mbappe. I have my own story and I am my own way.”

Despite interest from Manchester City, Leao has no regrets of choosing to join Lille last summer due to being able to enjoy regular football.

FARO, PORTUGAL - JULY 20: LOSC Lille forward Nicolas Pepe from Ivory Coast during the match between FC Porto v LOSC Lille for Algarve Football Cup 2018 at Estadio do Algarve on July 20, 2018 in Faro, Portugal. (Photo by Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images)

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“For the young player that I am, it is important to chain the matches in order to progress,” said Leao.

“What’s the use of being in a big club if I do not play?

“I prefer to play in a team that gives me play time and allows me to grow.

“When [Lille sporting director] Luis Campos called me to express his interest, I saw no reason to refuse. He told me about the project and introduced the team he was setting up.

“But what pushed me to come here was especially the possibility of having play time.”


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