DOHA ( Associated Press) – Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are not ready to say goodbye to the World Cup just yet.
But the clock is still ticking towards the end of his career, and Qatar could be in last place in world football’s top tournament.
With this in mind, it is only natural that the focus would turn to a new generation and the later lives of the two footballers who dominated the game for the last 15 years, sharing 12 Ballons d’Or and nine Champions League trophies . From his illustrious career.
They’ll leave shoes that are hard to fill. The followers of each consider him the best in history.
Thus, if Messi or Cristiano have been hard to pick, you just have to imagine how hard it would be to replace them.
But life and football go on, and the World Cup is the perfect place for a new generation of rising stars to showcase their talents.
Above other names stands out as the most likely successor: Kylian Mbappe.
“I think we haven’t seen the best of Kylian yet,” said his France teammate Olivier Giroud. “He’s amazing and still very young, which is scary, because he can still improve his game.”
Nor can Mbappe be considered a “new” footballer. He is barely 23 years old and has yet to win his first Ballon d’Or or his first Champions League trophy. But he has already won one World Cup and is the leading scorer of the event in Qatar with five goals.
Thus, he already has the trophy that Messi and Cristiano yearn for. And in a week and a half, I could have two.
He has to play two or three World Cups. And with nine goals in the two tournaments he has played, he has passed the record of 16 held by German Miroslav Klose.
Qatar looks like the place where the baton will pass into the hands of the Paris Saint-Germain striker, who combines his devastating pace and precise finishing with his footwork. These are all qualities that have separated Messi and Cristiano over the years.
But to match the durability of the Argentine and Portuguese, perhaps what the Frenchman needs most is a rival who will propel him to greater heights.
Would Messi or Cristiano have achieved so many feats and excellence unless someone competed with them?
The most obvious challenger to Mbappe now is Manchester City’s scoring machine Erling Haaland, whose country Norway failed to qualify for the World Cup.
He is a different prospect: pure power and goals, without Mbappe’s finesse or individual brilliance. But when it comes to numbers, Haaland have the potential to go head-to-head in terms of European trophies and scoring.
In the World Cup, there are not so many obvious opponents for Embappé.
England’s Jude Bellingham has a different player profile, but his outstanding performances in midfield have seen his country reach the quarter-finals against defending champions France.
“I love playing with him. He’s young, he has energy and he moves very well on the court,” said Bellingham’s teammate Declan Rice. “All the matches I’ve played with him so far, I’ve just said: ‘This is your platform. Get out there and take action.'”
Dutchman Cody Gakpo has scored three goals and improved his reputation after being linked with a transfer to Manchester United in the summer. But he still plays in the Netherlands with PSV Eindhoven, and has work to do before he can be counted among the elite footballers.
Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal said, “Things may change, but Cody has everything to be a star.” “He has an amazing personality to be a star player, because he has an open mind to everything and everyone.”
Portugal’s Joao Felix has yet to reach his peak at Atletico Madrid, but he has shown glimpses of the talent that marked him out as a future star when he emerged with Benfica. He has that kind of personal quality and game-changing ability that allows him to set himself apart from the rest.
The chance to step out of Cristiano’s shadow in his country’s national team could help his development.
Félix’s teammate in Portugal, Gonzalo Ramos, suddenly attracted attention with his hat-trick against Switzerland in the round of 16, after replacing Cristiano in the starting line-up.
Vinicius Junior, 22, is emerging as a key figure for Brazil and a potential successor to Neymar as his country’s football icon.
“He has made progress since joining Real Madrid and he showed that at the World Cup,” his fellow Croatian in the Merengue unit, Luka Modric, insisted.
Argentina’s Julian Alvarez looks like a natural scorer.
Germany will be hoping for better times with Jamal Musiala, while Spain’s midfield pair Gavi and Pedri evoke memories of Xavi and Andres Iniesta’s partnership to win everyone over.
But nobody can compare to Embappé in terms of impact, influence and star appeal.
Of course Messi and Cristiano haven’t finished their careers.
And who would dare to deny that they can light up their respective careers during this World Cup?
James Robson is on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson