Messi and Ronaldo Retirement - Who is Next?
Juventus’ new signing Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona's Lionel Messi have undoubtedly achieved a lot during their career. With both of these attacking forwards being crowned as the world's best and winning the Ballon d'Or at least five times, they have other individual achievements that are too many to be listed in this article.
Since these two superstars are in their 30's and are close to retirement, this article will look at potential candidates that are likely to replace them.
Neymar - Paris Saint-Germain
Currently the most expensive player in the world, Neymar Jr. seems to be the first replacement as the world's best player.
Originally born as Neymar da Silva Santos Junior, the 26-year-old Brazilian currently plays for Paris Saint-Germain after his departure from Barcelona in 2017, in a world-record 200-million-pound deal.
Indeed, many soccer pundits have speculated that Neymar left his former club not only for the lucrative offer abroad but because he wanted to leave Messi's shadow and be able to be the world best.
Undoubtedly, Neymar is a world-class talent with speed, skill, and a knack for goals in and around the penalty box. Among his notable achievements, he has won a gold medal with the Brazilian national team, the UEFA Champions League once and the Spanish League twice with Barcelona, and many other minor accolades.
He has not yet claimed the Ballon d'Or because he still has more work to do. Some may argue that he has not yet won it because he is younger than Messi and Ronaldo, but this title has nothing to do with age.
Messi and Ronaldo have an exceptional touch of class that is consistent in almost every match. However, Neymar also has a touch of class like theirs, but his inconsistencies are a setback at the moment.
The fact that his performance was below par at the 2018 World Cup does not mean he is not a candidate. It will be biased to judge him based on this tournament.
Eden Hazard - Chelsea
Eden Hazard is another player who can also take over in the subsequent years. This 27-year-old Belgian international has been a force to reckon with in the English Premier League, which happens to be one of the toughest football leagues in the world.
Due to his creative performances, he has helped Chelsea FC win the English Premier League twice, as well as winning the English League Cup once.
He also captained his country during the 2018 World Cup where they won the bronze medal; his country’s highest position of this tournament.
His dribbling, pace, and offensive awareness have made him a transfer target for many managers around the world.
Gareth Bale - Real Madrid
Without a doubt, Gareth Frank Bale is one of the hardest workers in football. Popularly known as Gareth Bale, the Welshman has had to work his way up to success.
Unlike most players who receive offers from big clubs by playing in national teams filled with star players who win medals, he has literally had to carry the Wales national team on his shoulders for quite a number of years.
The 28-year-old rose to prominence after leading a struggling Tottenham Hotspur to a reasonable position in the 2012/13 English Premier League season.
During that season, he was the second player in Premier League history, after Ronaldo, to win PFA Players' Player of the Year, Young Player of the Year, and the Football Writers Association Player of the Year Award all in one season.
His eye-catching performances made Real Madrid FC break the transfer record in 2013 to buy him for 80 million pounds. His blistering pace on the field and long-distance shots make football seem like a video game.
Furthermore, he has helped Real Madrid win the UEFA Champions League four times in a row, from 2014 to 2018. The former Tottenham forward is currently the highest goal scorer for his country with 29 international goals.
People now label Bale as a fragile player who is mostly sidelined by injury. However, people have forgotten that he was as fit as a fiddle when he was the star man at his former club. Many factors can account for a sudden change in fitness levels, so he can have a turnaround anytime soon.
Unfortunately, he left Tottenham as a king to go and be one of the princes of Real Madrid in 2013, with the likes of Ronaldo and Benzema present at the time.
However, I personally believe he could be a contender for the next world best if he leaves Real Madrid and goes to a club where he would be revered as a king and get more playing time. Or could he take advantage of Ronaldo’s departure and become a king at Madrid?
There may be other players who have performed for a season or two who have not been included on this list like Salah, Mbappe, etc. But I made this list based on long-term performances over various seasons.
Who makes your list of replacements for Messi and Ronaldo?