Mbappé lauds 'unique' Ronaldo ahead of QF clash

Kylian Mbappé has praised Cristiano Ronaldo as “unique” ahead of France’s quarterfinal clash with Portugal on Friday, adding that he and the 39-year-old stay in contact regularly.

Mbappé’s fandom for Ronaldo is well known, with the France captain having posted a picture of him meeting his then-hero at the Madrid training ground in 2012 when his recent free transfer to Real Madrid was announced.

Speaking at a news conference on Thursday ahead of the game in Hamburg, Mbappé said of Ronaldo: “It’s truly an honour, everyone knows the respect I have for him. He is still a legend and we are in contact but I hope tomorrow that we can win.

“We have to appreciate who he is and what he has done — he is a unique player. His CV speaks for itself.”

Asked if he wanted to replicate Ronaldo after his move to Madrid, for whom the Portuguese star is the all-time leading goal scorer, Mbappé added: “There is only one of him. Me, I just want to follow my own route.

“I hope I will write a great story at Madrid but it will be different.”

Mbappé and France have struggled for fluency at Euro 2024. They are yet to score from open play in four games, relying on a penalty from the former Paris Saint-Germain player and own goals to progress — the most recent coming from Jan Vertonghen in a closely fought round-of-16 contest with Belgium.

That absence of flowing football has created murmurs of discontent in France, though manager Didier Deschamps appeared unbothered at the news conference.

“There are people who may not be happy but I have seen happy people. It is more exciting to win 5-4, that’s for sure,” he said.

“The critics, you are there to do your job. They have always been part of my daily life. Today, it does not stop me from living in peace.”

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