Ronaldo and Messi have not lost their magic touch yet but their days at the top are numbered… golden boys Mbappe and Haaland have been catching up and look set to become football’s next great rivalry after their dazzling Champions League displays
- Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are on the verge of crashing out of Europe
- Ronaldo and Messi have’t failed to reach Champions League quarters since 2005
- They were outshone in the Champions League this week by Mbappe and Haaland
- The two strikers look like perfect heirs to Ronaldo’s and Messi’s shared throne
Despite what their mystic brilliance and age-defying wizardry may suggest, there will come the day when Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have to pack it in and hang up their boots.
Father Time, unfortunately, is the one opponent Ronaldo and Messi will not be able to outrun and outjump forever.
But at least now, as they approach the twilight of their careers, we can start to truly appreciate the sheer fortune of witnessing these two once-in-a-generation talents in the same era.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi had games to forget in the Champions League this week
Ronaldo and Messi have been battling to be the greatest player for over a decade now
Their constant jostling to be the game’s greatest player over their careers has been a fascinating and awe-inspiring spectacle – and is still rumbling on.
Ronaldo is 36 now though and only has a few years left, maybe four at the most. And who’s to say he’ll maintain those elite performance levels right until his final game. At the end of the day, he is only human.
Messi is three years his junior but it is entirely conceivable that he may bow out even before Ronaldo.
They remain brilliant match-winners, but with more bad day’s at the office than they’ve ever been used to. You could argue until the cows come home about who has the edge, but something which is easier to agree on is that Ronaldo and Messi are not the only ones on football’s centre stage anymore.
They have company now.
There is a new generation of emerging proteges who are making a name for themselves and appear to be the perfect heirs to Ronaldo’s and Messi’s shared throne.
And none more so than Paris Saint-Germain’s Kylian Mbappe and Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland, who seem to have all the hallmarks to become football’s newest great rivalry.
Haaland even admitted that Mbappe’s hat-trick heroics against Barcelona gave him extra motivation to score more goals.
Kylian Mbappe (left) and Erling Haaland (right) look like becoming their successors and football’s newest great rivalry
SofaScore’s graphic shows the two strikers have been catching up with Messi and Ronaldo
‘I love the Champions League and when I saw Mbappe score the hat-trick yesterday I got free motivation, so thanks to him,’ he said on Wednesday night after Dortmund’s win at Sevilla.
‘He scored some nice goals and I got a good boost from him.’ Drawing on the successes of others for your own inspiration sounds awfully like something out of the Ronaldo textbook doesn’t it?
Mbappe’s and Haaland’s rise has not been overnight, they have been catching up with Ronaldo and Messi over the past couple of years, and this week’s Champions League results was a big indication that the changing of the guard process could already be underway.
The Spanish press dubbed Barcelona’s clash with PSG the battle between Messi and Mbappe. Come the end of Tuesday night, there was only one clear winner.
The 22-year-old Mbappe cemented his reputation as one of world’s best players – never mind prospects – by scoring a famous hat-trick.
Messi, who had been completely outshone, could only watch as each goal was dispatched with a familiar ruthlessness, which had evaded him on the night.
Mbappe ran rings around Barcelona and completely outshone Messi as PSG won 4-1
Haaland, who scored twice in a 3-2 win at Sevilla, admitted Mbappe’s treble had motivated him
Although these humiliations in the Champions League has become a worrying trend in recent seasons for Barcelona, Messi has never faced the kind of scrutiny he is experiencing now.
He was accused of looking ‘disinterested’ in the 4-1 defeat while his power to bail out Barcelona seems to have disappeared.
Ronaldo and Juventus have also found themselves in a pickle after losing 2-1 to Porto in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.
The Portugal forward played the entire 90 minutes but was unable to make a significant contribution in the match.
If Barcelona and Juventus are to crash out, it will be the first time since 2005 that Messi and Ronaldo have not progressed to the quarter-final or beyond.
Mbappe looks to be sailing through with PSG while Haaland has put Dortmund on the verge of advancing after bagging a brace in a 3-2 victory in Seville.
Ronaldo is still performing at an elite level at 36 but will likely retire in the next four years
For the first time in his career, Messi is facing serious scrutiny despite his impressive numbers
It is only a matter of time before the spotlight turns on Mbappe (2nd left) and Haaland (centre)
It feels like there’s some significance in that. It has not only been this season either that Mbappe and Haaland have outperformed Messi and Ronaldo in Europe’s blue-riband competition.
Since last season in the Champions League, Mbappe and Haaland have scored 28 goals combined – that’s 13 more than Messi and Ronaldo, who have 15.
In all competitions this term, it’s Haaland who boasts the most goals in all competitions – but only just – with 25 goals in 24 games in comparison to Ronaldo’s 23 in 27, Messi’s 20 in 29 and Mbappe’s 21 in 29.
The numbers show that Ronaldo and Messi have not lost their magic touch yet, but that Mbappe and Haaland are hot on their heels.
It is only a matter of time before they become entwined in the next battle for supremacy when Ronaldo and Messi do walk off into the sunset.
And the early indications are that it will be another long and special contest, just like Ronaldo’s and Messi’s was for all those years.
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