Ballon d’Or: Five players who can take over after the end of Messi, Ronaldo era

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FOOTBALL Ballon d’Or: Five players who can take over after the end of Messi, Ronaldo era

Joel Omotto 21:00 - 31.10.2023

Lionel Messi won his eighth Ballon d’Or on Monday, putting him three ahead of his nemesis Cristiano Ronaldo but with the two GOATs exiting the stage, who are next in line to the throne?

Lionel Messi was as widely expected handed a record-extending eighth Ballon d’Or award on Monday.

Messi beat of competition from Manchester City striker Erling Haaland and Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe to claim the award, adding onto his titles in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2019 and 2021.

The Argentina World Cup winner is now out there on his own with bitter rival Cristiano Ronaldo second to him with five.

However, with Messi moving to the MLS with Inter Miami and Ronaldo, now in Saudi Arabia with Al-Nassr, not even nominated, the era of the two GOATs has finally come to an end, setting the stage for a new crop of superstars.

So, who are the players that will take over from Messi and Ronaldo?

Erling Haaland (Man City and Norway)

Some fans thought Haaland unfairly lost to Messi after scoring over 50 goals and leading City to a treble of Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup last season.

It makes Haaland one of the firm favourites to take the mantle from the two GOATs but only if he can maintain the high level of performance the two legends managed for nearly 20 years.

Haaland has already started this season the way he finished last with 11 goals in the Premier League, which makes him the division’s highest scorer, while he has two in the Champions League.

With Norway unlikely to challenge for major honours, City will have to win big again for him to be sure of winning the prestigious gong given no Premier League player has claimed the award since Rolando in 2008.

Jude Bellingham (Real Madrid and England)

Currently hogging the limelight after his astonishing start to his Real Madrid career, Jude Bellingham is already being considered Messi’s heir apparent.

This is because just like Messi, Bellingham is already showing a high level of performance and consistency at a young age which puts him in good stead.

Still just 19, Bellingham is already carrying Real Madrid on his back and has 10 goals in La Liga from as many goals which makes him the division’s top scorer.

His brace in the El Clasico last weekend showed how he can quickly change a game even when he or his team are not playing well, qualities needed to succeed at a high pressure environment like Real Madrid.

Bellingham finished 18th in the 2023 Ballon d’Or rankings but that was down to his season at Borussia Dortmund. Things will, however, be very different next year if he maintains his form.

Having won the Kopa Trophy, reserved for the best young player, the big one will not be far off if Los Blancos have a good season given 12 of the last 15 Ballon d’Ors have been won by either a Real Madrid or Barcelona player.

Kylian Mbappe (PSG and France)

Third in the 2023 rankings, Frenchman Kylian Mbappe is the other player in line for the vacant throne but looks like he will have to leave Paris Saint-Germain to achieve this.

Mbappe would have been hot favourite for the 2023 award had France beat Argentina in the 2022 World Cup final as he equally had a great season, scoring 41 goals and providing 10 assists.

The forward looks set to leave PSG next summer after protracted battle with his current club last summer with Real Madrid his expected destination.

That would increase competition between him and Bellingham but he stands a better chance of claiming the award in Spain than in France unless PSG claim the Champions League this season and he has a brilliant campaign.

Jamal Musiala (Bayern Munich and Germany)

A rank outsider, the German youngster is continuing to set the Bundesliga alight, making his case even stronger.

The playmaker has been rumoured to be on the radar of Premier League giants Liverpool which would enhance his reputation further but Bayern are equally big and with a Champions League win, he will be very much in the conversation.

Musiala was 26th in the 2023 rankings but it’s is anyone’s crown starting 2024 depending on what season they have.

At 20, Musiala has time on his side so long as he stays level-headed and remains consistent.

Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid and Brazil)

Another one capable of taking over from Messi and Ronaldo, the 23-year-old Brazilian has showed remarkable consistency in the last two seasons and finished sixth in the 2023 rankings.

‘Vini’ managed 23 goals and 21 assists for Real Madrid last season following on the 22 goals and 20 assists he bagged when Los Blancos won the La Liga and Champions League double in 2021-22.

This season has not started well for him as he has just three goals and as many assists but the quality is there to do it.

His only challenge is that Bellingham is showing remarkable form plus the expected arrival of Mbappe at Real Madrid could take the spotlight away from him.

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