One of the key men in France’s 2018 World Cup triumph as a teenager, Mbappe again stood tall on a big occasion in his first match at Camp Nou, promptly canceling out Messi’s penalty in the first half before striking twice after the break, Reuters reported.
He also became the first player to net a treble away to Barca in Europe’s elite competition since Dynamo Kyiv’s Andriy Shevchenko in November 1997, over a year before Mbappe was born.
“Kylian had a great night,” said Griezmann, Mbappe’s strike partner with France. “PSG has a star for the future, who will be at the same level as Leo Messi or Cristiano.”
PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino also heaped praise on Mbappe, who helped the Argentine record only his second victory over Barca after spending years as a player and then coach with their long-suffering city rival Espanyol.
“It’s obvious that Kylian is a great footballer,” said Pochettino following his side’s last-16, first leg victory.
“He proved that with his three goals but he also showed real commitment by getting involved with defensive work too. As well as being brilliant for the three goals, he put in a huge effort for the team when Barca were putting pressure on us.”
The PSG coach added, “Yesterday in our training session he asked me how many times I had won at the Camp Nou. I said once with Espanyol, and he assured me that tonight I’d win for a second time. He’s a top guy.”
PSG’s former Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas also praised Mbappe’s selfless qualities.
“Mbappe played very well and he always thought about doing the best for the team, he wasn’t just thinking about distinguishing himself,” he said.
“He doesn’t need to prove himself to anyone, the whole world knows him already and we’re very happy to have him. When we see him go and perform like that, we feel privileged.”
'Cold bath of reality'
Barcelona’s crushing defeat by PSG at Camp Nou underlined the scale of the rebuild the club needs to get back to its former glory days, coach Ronald Koeman said.
“That was a cold bath of reality,” said Koeman.
“The game showed us we’re lacking a lot of things to be a top level team especially of the level you need in the Champions League,” he told reporters. “The scoreline reflects how superior they were. They were far more effective than us.
“The first half was more even and when we were 1-0 up we had the chance for Ousmane (Dembele) but in the second half we had a lot of problems in defense and they proved they were much stronger than us physically,” added the Dutchman.
Koeman inherited an ageing and disjointed Barcelona side when he succeeded Quique Setien in August and although his first season has had its share of ups and downs, the Catalans had appeared to be on the right track since the start of 2021.
Barca won its previous seven La Liga games and thrashed Alaves 5-1 on Saturday, but PSG showed how far the Spanish giant has to go.
“They showed they are a much more complete side than us and we have to accept it and try to improve. We knew something like this could happen against a great team, a physical side with experience. They are ahead of us in many ways.”
After giving a bleak assessment of his team, the Dutchman also expressed doubt they would be able to pull off a miraculous turnaround in the second leg in Paris on March 10, as Luis Enrique’s Barca did by beating PSG 6-1 in a second leg in 2017.
“I could lie, but when you lose 4-1 at home you have very few chances,” he added.