It’s always a debate, never a discussion, when admiring the two current world-beaters: Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Both, on top of the world, and undoubtedly the best players on the planet. “Who is better?” “Yeah but he can head the ball better.” “But he carries his country through the World Cup!” It’s all a funny spectacle if you ask me, as they’re both as crazy as each other. These two aliens, both so abnormal in their abilities, share a title that is heavily craved in the footballing world. We’ve heard players themselves entitle their role as high as this, Nicklas Bendtner once mentioned he could succeed the likes of Messi and CR7, but two years on he joined Wolfsburg and became one of the world’s greatest ridicules. It’s not easy that’s for sure, but as the era of Messi and Ronaldo draws to an unfortunate end, maybe it’s time to mention some of the names who look eager to succeed their reign. Not the easiest act to follow, almost like playing your act immediately after Sinatra in a pub. Could these next stars be about to set the globe alight.
1. Neymar Junior.
Neymar seems closest in terms of ability for sure. His potential just a few years ago in his early days at Santos peeled people’s eyes, fans from across the world would tune in to some dulcet game from the Liga Brasila just to watch this star. Proving phenomenal at international level too it still didn’t seem convincing. Yet, it would only become clear to these blind-eyed fans that his talent was serious when he made his €87.2 million move to the Catalan. Neymar possesses a skill-set that every young player envisages of having. He’s certainly got that likeability factor, originally showcased on YouTube, his Brazilian flair is exerted through his fast footwork, sharp burst of pace, intelligent finishing and show-boating nature. Yep, it wouldn’t be a Brazilian without an exaggerated number of step-overs. Like Ronaldinho, these skill moves get Neymar places, often operating from the left for Barcelona, he’s currently sitting on 11 goals from 11 games, competing alongside the likes of Messi and Iniesta.
Not seen completely as the main man just yet in the Blue and Red of Barcelona, he’s certainly giving Messi some fierce competition for the Golden Boot. We saw in El Classico his trademark flair, cut in and finish as he steered home a beauty past San Iker. He’s got the lot, and positioning on the left and upfront for both club and country, it would be unfair to ignore his international goal record. Neymar is 22. Yep, 22 and he has already rounded up a tasty total of 136 goals for his country. Watch out Pele, as this man’s coming for your record. Give it maybe three years time, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see this Brazilian with the Ballon D’or in his hands. Big things to come from this dazzling talent… Big, big things.
2. Gareth Bale
World’s most expensive player you say? Well tension was bound to arise in Madrid when the Welshman arrived from Tottenham for €100 million. Outshining Ronaldo’s world-record price tag, would the current world’s best be happy to surrender his title, and will he get on well with the newly arriving man? Surprisingly the answer would be yes. Out of each others way, Bale plays from the right, whilst Ronaldo plays from the left. The bamboozling idealist would say these two are the exact replicate of one-and-other, but not me, there’s some differences for sure… But not too many!
Bale, who scored the most important goal of all in the Champions League final versus Atletico last season, has managed 27 goals so far for Madrid this campaign. Already going down in Madrid’s folklore, the Welshman is proving to be an essential part of the Galactico’s and outshines Ronaldo in his own way. At only 25, compared to Ronaldo’s 29, his age gives him an edge on the Portuguese man. It’s funny when you see them both stand over a free-kick though, standing in the same up-right posture, filled with confidence, breathing heavily and pin-pointing their target. It’s not funny when you’re on the receiving end of one though! His explosive burst of pace is sublime, not to mention his ability to score from anywhere on his left and his eccentric free-kick style. The Southampton academy graduate sure seems like a favourite to take over, and he has all the essentials that may see him do so.
3) James Rodriguez
Another Galactico, and one to top off the collection of top three La Liga stars. Positioned in Spain too, the Real Madrid play-maker just seemed like a decent prospect at AS Monaco one season ago. Underrated for sure, the Colombian was playing for a team with no Champions League and certainly not much credibility due to their status in Ligue 1. However, after the 23 year old stepped up on the biggest stage of all in Brazil, a successful World Cup saw James leave with the Goal of the Tournament, Golden Boot and a one way ticket to Madrid that would see the star join Ancelotti’s side for €80 million. It’s silly money, especially for the youngsters as you never know what they’re going to produce. This price tag, however, may just pay off. His shirt sales took off to another planet, as the likeable Colombian has a personality that every fanatic likes to see. His attitude is fantastic, his ability is special, and sat in the number ’10’ role, he’s capable of producing truly golden moments.
He’s certainly different to Neymar and Bale, and should I say Messi and Ronaldo in the sense that he contributes defensively a tad too. In a completely different position to the aforementioned, James will forever be judge on his overall performance, the magical moments no one sees, the flicks, passes, moments of movement that only the critical fan will see. These moments define James’ game, with the finishing touches coming naturally to put the cherry on the cake. 2 goals at Madrid this season isn’t bad for the star but it may have to improve if he wants this sought after title. He has the ability to do so, and imagine this man in his peak. Phwoar, not a bad Ozil replacement is he?
So you can see there are some main candidates to take over Ronaldo and Messi. Not to mention the list of Reus, Wilshere, Hazard, Isco and Gotze. The glamorous game will be sprinkled with a magical touch when these hit their peak, but will certainly be drained of engagement and beauty when the top-men exit. It’s always so exciting to see a young player in action, and the pressure on them can be reflective of their personality. The pressure is a good thing, don’t doubt it, it shows the tough from the weak, and the ones who can deal with it will certainly be the players to excel. No doubt these players will be at the top soon, but which one will take the crown? Which one will knock the Footballing God off his perch? Well time will tell, and until then, let’s just absorb what we can of Messi, Ronaldo and co. because it might be something only our generation can experience. As for the next generation? Well, who knows?
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