From Cristiano-Messi to Mbappé-Haaland
For the first time in I don't know how long neither Cristiano nor Messi are in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. They are still two extraordinary players, but another young pair has emerged to take their place at the top of football’s pedestal: Kylian Mbappé and Erling Haaland.
Mbappé and Haaland continue to go from strength to strength. Both players have been major protagonists of the Champions League last 16 stage (Mbappé more in the first leg than in the second leg; Haaland in both), in which they took the scalps of Barça and Sevilla, respectively.
Mbappé came up against Messi in a duel that the PSG striker unarguably won, especially thanks to his incredible hat-trick performance at Camp Nou, where the Barcelona captain was largely absent as his side went on to lose 4-1.
Haaland, meanwhile, did not have a direct matchup with Cristiano, but that’s not necessary. The Dortmund goal machine is public enemy number one right now. His game may have less charm than Mbappé's, but there is nobody that can stop him due to his huge physique and technique that is second to none. He has already scored ten goals in eight Champions League games this season.
Haaland edging the debate with Mbappé
The big question these days is which one you would prefer for your team (we still assume that Madrid and Barça can sign whomever they want) and in that debate Haaland is gaining more and more ground. What he is doing now at 20 years old, neither Messi nor Cristiano did at that age.
Talking about the potential successors to Messi and Ronaldo, we have been left wanting with Neymar, a genius victim of his own extravagance and comforts. Going from Barça to PSG was a bad move, as it reflected little sporting ambition. Barcelona’s relentless quest to sign him in the summer of 2019 has been replaced by the ambition to sign Haaland. At Real Madrid there is still a bit more talk about Mbappé, although with each passing game there are more defectors towards Haaland's side.
However, I am not optimistic that Madrid or Barça can sign either. We spent happy years with the Messi-Cristiano duel on Spanish soil and we feel entitled to see it repeated with this new pair. But between financial ruin at Camp Nou and construction cranes at the Bernabéu, for me it doesn’t seem feasible.