Robin van Persie knew Kylian Mbappe was destined for the top when he saw the then unknown French teenager produce an amazing 20-minute spell in a behind-closed-doors friendly.
Former Manchester United and Arsenal striker Van Persie had just joined Turkish side Fenerbahce in the summer of 2015 when he was given a close-up view of the striker who will threaten Manchester City ’s hopes of reaching their first Champions League final on Wednesday night.
Mbappe, now 22 and starring for Paris Saint-Germain, was progressing through the ranks at Monaco. And Van Persie recalled: “After I left Manchester United for Fenerbahce we went into a training camp in Switzerland before the season started.
“I remember us being in Lausanne, where the club had organised a friendly game against Monaco.
“I knew I would be playing 70 minutes and just before I was substituted a really young kid came on for Monaco.
“His name was Mbappe and in Europe nobody had really heard of him yet.
“But we, as players, had heard while we were in Switzerland, that Monaco had some kind of special player on the bench for their game against us.
“We were playing on a very average pitch of a local amateur club. But in those 20 minutes he played, he was so incredibly explosive, so skilful. It really was stuff from another level.
“I decided to watch his every move. I looked at him and I said to all the others on the bench ‘If this kid is not going to be a world star I am going to eat these football boots I am wearing.’”
Van Persie is such an admirer of the City academy he sent his young son, Shaqueel, to learn from United’s biggest rivals when he was a star at Old Trafford.
The Dutchman, now working in Feyenoord’s youth system holds up Mbappe as an example for his young players to follow.
Van Persie added: “He has been working so hard on every aspect of his game and he has all the weapons now.”