- Associated Press - Thursday, March 16, 2017

MONACO (AP) - Led by teen forward Kylian Mbappe, Monaco is winning widespread admiration for attacking football that has produced 126 goals this season.

Mbappe is the talk of European soccer thanks to lightning speed, trickery, and calm finishing. He made it 11 goals in 11 games when he scored the first in the 3-1 win that knocked out Manchester City and advanced Monaco to the Champions League quarterfinals on Wednesday.

He scored in the first leg, too, and has tallied 17.

That is impressive enough given his young age, and even more so considering he was still playing in the reserves until mid-October.

Europe’s biggest clubs will be queuing up to sign Mbappe, whose skillful yet direct style of play is drawing early comparisons to France great Thierry Henry.

“I don’t really like to compare players from different generations but they have a similar profile, with their speed and ability to beat players,” said France coach Didier Deschamps, who was Henry’s captain when they won the 1998 World Cup together. “I can only wish Kylian has the same career as Thierry.”

Deschamps called up 18-year-old Mbappe to the France squad for the first time on Thursday for a World Cup qualifier in Luxembourg and a friendly against Spain.

Kylian is already very mature. His biggest strength, above all the other qualities he has, is his composure when he’s through on the goalkeeper,” Deschamps said. “That’s very rare at his age, and it’s why he’s so efficient.”

Mbappe’s reported value is already estimated at around 60 million euros ($65 million). But before going anywhere else, Mbappe has unfinished business with Monaco.

“I’m making the most of it and I hope it’s just the beginning,” Mbappe said. “It feels incredible.”

His strength and awareness when dropping deep into midfield helped to start the move that led to Monaco’s second goal on Wednesday. Club vice-president Vadim Vasilyev praised his composure.

“What surprises me is the way he manages to keep a cool head despite all the media pressure he’s under,” Vasilyev said.

Monaco finds out its quarterfinal opponent on Friday, but must not lose sight of its domestic ambitions.

“We’re ready to face anyone,” Vasilyev said. “The Champions League is a bonus, our priority is the league.”

Monaco leads second-place Paris Saint-Germain in the French league by three points - effectively four given Monaco’s huge goal difference - and is also still involved in both domestic cups. Monaco faces PSG in the League Cup final next month.

Although Mbappe is the brightest talent in Monaco’s team, he’s far from the only one.

Left back Benjamin Mendy (who is 22), winger Thomas Lemar (21) and holding midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko (22) were all outstanding against City.

“They’re a close-knit squad,” Vasilyev said.

Lemar has already broken into the France squad and Mendy was summoned for the first time by Deschamps on Thursday.

Mendy and Lemar have an intuitive feel for the way the other plays, and those two marauding down the left flank for France could be a regular sight in the years to come.

It is testimony to Monaco’s sense of teamwork and the unselfishness of its players that the 126 goals have been largely shared around.

Top-scorer Radamel Falcao is the only one who has more than 20. He’s netted 24.

Mpabbe is next with 17, Lemar has 11, and midfielders Bernardo Silva and Fabinho have 10 each.

A total of 14 different scorers have contributed to Monaco’s 84 league goals, giving coach Leonardo Jardim many options - and opposing teams plenty to worry about.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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