Kylian Mbappe takes torch from Lionel Messi as PSG thrash Barcelona

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The talk should this time not be of comebacks, or returns, but ascendance. That’s how good Kylian Mbappe’s performance was. It was a night that will surely be looked back on as one where he proclaimed himself as the new best player in the world. He destroyed Barcelona, and completely overshadowed Lionel Messi, with a hat-trick that fired a 4-1 win for Paris Saint-Germain that also felt like a definitive passing of the torch.

The history of this fixture means that there will be a certain caution about the end result after two legs, and the return in Parc des Princes, but this was all about the future.

It wasn’t all about Mbappe in that regard, either. It was as much a statement from Mauricio Pochettino, as he secured such a win without Neymar and Angel Di Maria. That, however, is what the Argentine’s management is all about. It’s about transforming mentality, demolishing old demons, and looking to what is possible. What was possible here was an exhilarating display.

It really shouldn’t be overlooked that the last time PSG set foot on this pitch they suffered the worst night in the history of the club. This was instead one of the best, as Barca were once again made look like the rabble they have been for so long. It was another painful reminder of what they’ve become, as PSG banished bad memories of their own.

The final goal was the perfect distillation of where the teams are, as an attack led by Mbappe just outstripped a tired, lethargic-looking team. They are surely certain now to eliminate Barca from the Champions League for the first time in this era, after three successive defeats to the Catalans.

Some might fairly say it’s about time, given the extent of the investment into the French club, and what they are as a Qatari state project. That doesn’t preclude the fact this is now Mbappe’s time. He was at the centre of everything Paris Saint-Germain did well, but there was also a sense that there was better structure around him, amplifying those impressive talents. Those talents only seem to be multiplying, too.

This performance was about so much more than the goals, and that explosive power he has in small spaces. Both of his first two strikes were still exquisite examples of that, mind.

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