Erling Braut Haaland and Kylian Mbappe outshone Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi this week in the Champions League – so is the changing of the guard already here?
Barcelona captain Messi, 33, and Juventus’ former Manchester United and Real Madrid forward Ronaldo, 36, have dominated world football for over a decade, but both are playing in underachieving teams – with a fading goalscoring record in the Champions League.
Paris St-Germain forward Mbappe, 22, netted a hat-trick in Tuesday’s 4-1 win over Barcelona after Messi gave the hosts the lead.
Borussia Dortmund’s Haaland, 20, netted twice in Wednesday’s 3-1 win over Sevilla – with Ronaldo failing to score at the same time as Juve lost 2-1 to Porto.
“When I saw Mbappe scored a hat-trick, I got free motivation so thanks to him,” said Haaland after his double in Spain.
Is this the new rivalry world football needs?
Ronaldo and Messi have won 11 of the past 12 Ballons d’Or – the award for the best player in the world – between them.
Ronaldo is, by some accounts, the top scorer in the history of football with 763 goals for Sporting Lisbon, United, Real, Juve and Portugal.
He is the top scorer in Champions League history (a competition he has won five times), Real Madrid’s record scorer and is seven goals off the record for men’s international goals.
Messi is La Liga’s all-time top scorer and Barcelona’s record scorer. The Argentine has won 34 trophies with the club including Super Cups.
Mbappe has been earmarked as the potential best player in the world for some time. PSG made him the second most expensive player ever, for £166m, after just 46 first-team appearances for Monaco.
At the age of 22 he is already PSG’s third all-time top scorer with 111 (behind just Edinson Cavani and Zlatan Ibrahimovic) and a World Cup winner with France.
But Haaland’s emergence has come as more of a surprise. The 20-year-old was not really known outside his homeland of Norway until last season – when he started a sensational Champions League scoring run.
He has scored 18 goals in only 13 Champions League appearances for Red Bull Salzburg and Borussia Dortmund. Nobody else has ever scored that amount in 20 games.
“It means we’ve got something to look forward to after [Ronaldo and Messi],” said Gary Lineker on BT Sport.
Ex-Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand said: “Last night Mbappe overshadowed Messi and tonight Haaland overshadowed Ronaldo on a night where they both played.
“[This is the] changing of the guard. This could be another rivalry which lasts 10 years. How long have we been asking ‘what’s next?'”
Ex-Chelsea midfielder Joe Cole said: “We didn’t see these numbers even when Ronaldo and Messi were learning their trade. The frightening thing is these lads will improve.”
All four players have been highly prolific since the start of last season, averaging between over a goal a game – Haaland – to a goal every 1.4 games in Messi, although the Argentine broke records for assists last season.
It is the Champions League though where Haaland and Mbappe’s form is most striking.
The two youngsters have scored 28 goals since the start of the 2019-20 Champions League. Ronaldo and Messi have 15 combined.
Mbappe (19 goals) and Haaland (18) are the top Champions League scorers before their 21st birthday, well ahead of third-placed Karim Benzema (12). Messi managed eight and Ronaldo had scored none at that age.
“I think Mbappe is more rounded but what a team you could build round Haaland,” said Cole.
Former Bayern Munich midfielder Owen Hargreaves said: “Mbappe is the better player but Haaland will eventually score more goals.”
Which one would you choose? Or do you still think Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo are the best?