Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are the two best football players on the planet. That has been the case for more than a decade. The two have scored a staggering number of goals, and broken records on a yearly basis. However, the reign of these two might be inevitably coming to an end.
Messi has shown signs of decline. We all dreaded this time. With six Ballons D’or, four Champions League titles, and dozens of incredible individual records, Messi is often cited as the greatest footballer of our generation. The same can be said about Ronaldo.
Those two have been on a different planet for a while. However, Ronaldo, 34, and Messi, 32, can’t go on forever. So who are the likely candidates to take the torch?
The likes of Kylian Mbappe, Jadon Sancho, Erling Haaland, Kai Havertz or even Joao Felix have demonstrated that they possess the talent to be the best.
Ronaldo and Messi heir: Kylian Mbappe?
The most obvious candidate to take over from Messi and Ronaldo, is Mbappe. The Frenchman is just 21-years-old but has accomplished quite a lot. He’s already won a World Cup, three Ligue 1 titles, French footballer of the year and other numerous awards. Even Ronaldo and Messi were not quite this good at this age.
The Frenchman turned 21 in December and compared to Messi, Ronaldo and even some of the best players to play, he has a much better record. At this age, he has scored 103 goals just 12 behind Ronaldo Nazario who had 115 at that age. At the same age, Messi had 42 while Ronaldo had scored just 27.
With his blistering pace, phenomenal goal scoring abilities and master dribbling, Mbappe has unlimited potential. His World Cup performance in Russia in 2018 saw him ascend to the pinnacle of the game. He is the natural heir to the two.
His current club, Paris Saint-Germain are currently searching for that elusive Champions League crown. If PSG are going to get their hands on that coveted title, Mbappe will play a starring role.
Ronaldo and Messi heir: Jadon Sancho?
Sancho’s development has skyrocketed after he joined Dortmund from Manchester City. Sancho made his Bundesliga debut aged 17. The Englishman, who is capped 11 times by England, struck 12 times across the 2018/19 season. However, goals are only half of the story for one of football’s brightest architects.
If last season was brilliant, this season is much better. He has 14 Bundesliga goals and 15 assists. That is staggering for a 19-year-old.
Although he is yet to lead Borussia Dortmund to major silverware, he has shown that he has all the attributes to be the best in the world.
Haaland is currently Europe’s brightest football star. This season is his breakout campaign. He made his name with RB Salzburg in the Champions League. His debut hat-trick in the Champions League against Genk in September was his fourth of the season.
After securing a move to Dortmund in January, he settled quickly and was up and running from the first match. On his debut, he scored a 23-minute hat-trick. One thing that made Messi and Ronaldo different from the rest was their ability to score goals. Many goals.
One standout attribute from the 19-year-old Norwegian is his devastating goal scoring abilities. His reputation has been growing steadily over the last 18 months and is now considered to be the heir of the two monsters.
If you are tipped to win the Ballon d’Or by Lothar Mathaus, former FIFA World Player of the Year and West Germany’s World Cup winning captain, you are going places. The 20-year-old is a unique talent. His high IQ and wondrous passing range make him a potential heir to Messi and Ronaldo.
The 20-year-old has been involved in more goals in all competitions than any Bundesliga-based German in 2020. The German was instrumental in Bayer Leverkusen’s fourth-place finish last season and he has been the key to his team’s phenomenal start this year.
He has the elegance of Mesut Ozil and the IQ and goal threat of the great Michael Ballack. He does not need trophies to validate his talent. If Leverkusen are to secure their first title in 27 years, Havertz will be pulling the strings.