Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s domination of world football appears to be slowly but surely approaching its conclusion.
The duo have undoubtedly been the two best players in the world for well over a decade, winning the Ballon d’Or 11 times out of the last 12 since 2008, with Luka Modric accounting for the rest of world football’s sole victory in 2018.
Yet, with both players now in their mid-30s, age is starting to catch up with them as they try to continue the phenomenal records both of them have set over the last 15 years.
After his summer move to PSG, Messi has failed to hit the ground running, with no goals in five league matches – although he is faring better in the Champions League, with four goals in four appearances, including a stunner against Man City.
Cristiano Ronaldo, meanwhile, has outscored Messi since returning to Manchester United in the summer, with nine goals in 12 matches, including crucial strikes against Atalanta in the Champions League, but his presence has also been blamed for the Red Devils’ struggles at times this season, with plenty of question marks over how the forward can adapt to different tactical set-ups.
Whilst Ronaldo continues to be a feared goal threat, both United’s struggles and Juventus ’ before that suggest the idea of building a team around the 36-year-old’s scoring prowess risks exposing weaknesses elsewhere, and has created a general sense that football tactics may well be leaving the Portuguese star’s style of play behind.
It means that the next generation of players have well and truly closed the gap on Messi and Ronaldo only because of age catching up and new contenders on the rise.
Come 2025, it is unlikely that Ronaldo, who will be 40, and Messi, who will be 38, will still be playing at the highest level, and instead it will be younger players being named the best in the world.
My two contenders are of course:
At 22 years old, Kylian Mbappe is one of the deadliest forwards in world football, but just how good is he? Here are legendary players he has already outscored in the UEFA Champions League.
In Paris Saint-Germain’s 4-1 win over Club Brugge on Tuesday, the France international became the youngest player in the history of the Champions League to reach 30 goals.
Mbappe ended up taking his tally to 31 strikes on the night, with the Real Madrid-linked striker having made 51 appearances in the competition since his debut.
He has outscored some of the biggest names in world football already at such a young age even in the prestigious tournament of the Champions League which is considered the golden standard of competition in Europe.
To put the 2018 FIFA World Cup winner’s brilliance into context, perhaps it would be interesting to take a look at some high-profile names he has already surpassed on the goalscoring chart of Europe’s premier club tournament.
Ex-Arsenal and Manchester United frontman Robin van Persie features on the star-studded list, with the Dutchman managing only 25 goals in 59 Champions League games for those two clubs.
The iconic Rivaldo is another big name Mbappe has already overtaken in the ranking, as is former Ajax Amsterdam and Barcelona striker Patrick Kluivert, who retired from football with 29 strikes in the competition. He has even outscored Anelka and Romario.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given his stunning scoring record at Borussia Dortmund, many fans believe that Erling Haaland will be the best player in the world.
Still just 21, Haaland has netted a ridiculous 70 goals in 69 appearances in all competitions for Dortmund and, come 2025, will be entering a period in his career that many others would consider their prime – meaning it is difficult to see him not dominating world football.
Whilst Haaland has been tipped to have a rivalry with PSG star Kylian Mbappe over the next decade, it is difficult to see who would reign Supreme.
Mbappe is the better player, whilst Haaland is the best finisher some may say in world football at present at his tender age.
Haaland is gifted with exceptional movement both on and off the ball. He has great close control on both his legs. Standing at 6’4″, he can command the aerial balls easily and therefore can function as a target for crosses with effortless ease.
Who do you think will be next in line? Let us know in the comments below.
Main image credits: Embed from Getty Images