Barcelona’s Lionel Messi remains at the top of his game and, at the age of 30, he still has a few more years left at this level. Next summer’s World Cup in Russia could well be his last, even if we can’t put anything beyond the Argentine’s ability. Don’t rule out Messi tearing defences apart at the age of 35 when Qatar 2022 comes around.
Cristiano Ronaldo won the FIFA Ballon d’Or award for the best footballer in the world at the end of last year, for the fourth time in his career. This came after helping Portugal win Euro 2016 against the odds and Real Madrid winning the Champions League for the third time in four seasons.
Messi and Ronaldo have combined to share the last nine Ballon d’Or awards. Something that once would have seemed unthinkable but that no one can deny they have deserved. You have to go back to 2007, when Kaká won the award, to find a different recipient.
Whilst these two are currently in a league of their own, there are plenty of players waiting in the wings to take over from them one day. Here are five players who one day will take that crown away from Messi and Ronaldo:
Voted the third best player in the world in 2015, don’t be surprised if Neymar wins the 2017 Ballon d’Or with how well he and Paris Saint-Germain are doing in both the French Ligue 1 and Champions League. However, playing for PSG could be his undoing. The French league is not regarded as a top league, however if PSG can win the Champions League then it would certainly go a long way towards helping Neymar be regarded as the world’s best one day.
Neymar is a regular goalscorer from out wide and has been scoring for fun alongside Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappé since moving to the Parc des Princes this past summer. He’s very skillful and entertaining too – and is closing in on becoming Brazil’s all-time leading goalscorer, still at only 25 years old.
Whilst many may feel Neymar has taken the easy option in moving to the French capital, Eden Hazard continues to thrive in the toughest league in the world. The Belgian superstar has helped Chelsea to two Premier League titles over the past three seasons and continues to be linked with a move to Real Madrid. If Antonio Conte cannot bring the Champions League trophy to Stamford Bridge this season then they may have a battle keeping Hazard at the club over the summer.
Eden Hazard is excellent with the ball at his feet and difficult to tackle. He has such quick and talented feet. A provider and scorer of goals, should he join Madrid or even Barcelona, perhaps then the rest of Europe will truly appreciate his talent. Premier League opponents certainly do – he’s been the most fouled player in the Premier League for each of the past few seasons.
Many thought the sale of Neymar would be a huge blow over the summer but Barcelona top both La Liga and their Champions League group currently. Part of that has been down to striker, Luis Suárez. Whether he’ll win the Ballon d’Or in his career remains to be seen as he is the same age as teammate, Lionel Messi. However, should the Catalans go on to win both the domestic league and Europe’s elite club cup competition, then he should be in for a shout.
Luis Suárez has a fantastic eye for goal – something he’s proven at all three European clubs for which he’s played: Ajax, Liverpool and now Barcelona. A good dribbler and a nuisance to defenders; he’s already one of the elite players in the world.
Although his productivity has dried up a little this season, Antoine Griezmann remains one of the top players in the world. It may simply be that he didn’t get a transfer away from Atlético Madrid in the summer and is looking for a move to a bigger club. Strongly linked with a move to Manchester United, perhaps 2018-19 will be the season the French international can prove himself at the top.
Antoine Griezmann has been a regular scorer with both Real Sociedad and Atleti but he has been known to bottle big games. He didn’t show up for either Champions League final versus rivals Real Madrid and missed two excellent opportunities at 0-0 in the Euro 2016 final. On his day he is a good finisher and runner with the ball.
Although he hadn’t been a regular goalscorer with Palermo, Juventus saw the potential in Paulo Dybala when they splashed out €32 million in 2015. He’s already into double figures for Serie A goals this season, meaning the Argentine has scored 11+ in each of his first three seasons with the Turin-based club. At the age of 24, he has plenty of time to win the Ballon d’Or.
The reason I chose Dybala over Mauro Icardi for this list is that the Juventus striker does more than just putting the ball into the net. He’s a good runner with the ball and a nifty player who can score with both his feet, as well as his head.