Future Ballon d'Or winners Mbappe & Dybala will give glimpse of post-Messi-Ronaldo future

3 months ago 0

Ronaldo is likely to earn another Ballon d’Or at the start of 2018 but the time will come when he and Messi are no longer on the podium

There is a photograph floating about of Kylian Mbappe in a Real Madrid tracksuit and Cristiano Ronaldo's arm draped around his shoulder at Real's training base at Valdebebas. Mbappe, at 13, had been invited for a look around the facilities by Zinedine Zidane.

Mbappe, in the photo, is plainly a boy. It's a photo to emphasise his tender years. Ronaldo looks just the same, Mbappe has since blossomed into a fine young man in such a short space of time. To be in a picture with Ronaldo was no doubt a thrill for a kid like Mbappe but he is making his own way in the world now and probably seen as a threat by Ronaldo; a threat to his stature and his Ballon d'Or.

Likewise, Paulo Dybala has openly described Lionel Messi as his "idol". He grew up emulating the Barcelona superstar. Last week he shoved him out of the Champions League.

Time ticks by. It’s sad to think about but the day will come when Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are no longer playing. They’ll be gone and we’ll only have memories.

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You’ll look around and you won’t see those Barcelona and Real Madrid shirts on kids all over the world. The question “Messi or Ronaldo?” won’t open up a conversation with a new friend the same way it does now.

These men broke down the barriers between what we thought was achievable and what was made possible.

The standards Messi and Ronaldo have set will never be surpassed. We will have to get used to the fact that players coming before and after won’t ever be the same.

There won’t be twice-weekly goal scoring performances. There won’t be goals scored in hat-tricks, fours and fives as standard. But someone will have to be the best once this transition takes place.

They’re not going anywhere any time soon, yet the truth is another player will probably win the Ballon d’Or before both retire.

Ronaldo has a great chance of retaining his title this year. Real Madrid will probably win La Liga again and they are still in with a shout of winning another Champions League following Friday morning’s draw.

The Portugal captain’s decisiveness in the two legs against Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals mean he has a visibility and a prominence denied to all others by virtue of his powers.

The world was speaking about Ronaldo and his hat-trick on Wednesday morning with the conversation already turned towards the Ballon d’Or.

There is a chink of light for hopefuls though with Barcelona’s under-performance costing Messi.

Ronaldo might well be joined on the podium by two newcomers who will one day beat him to the award; two young men who defined their respective teams’ march to the semis; two forwards who will come face to face when Juventus take on Monaco for the right to meet one of Madrid’s super clubs in the Champions League final.

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Dybala was a stranger to many when he popped up to score two of Juventus’s three goals against Barcelona in the first leg of the quarter-finals.

First-time viewers would have noted the unerring accuracy and tidy technique of the 23-year-old Argentine who likes to play with his socks low.

He was Juve’s top scorer last season on their way to a fifth consecutive Serie A title and even if he has been outgunned on the domestic front this term by €90 million man Gonzalo Higuain, he has proven to be Juve’s chief threat in the knockout stages of the Champions League – games of far bigger prominence. Higuain was signed from Napoli with the purpose of winning Juve the Champions League in mind but it’s Dybala who is shining bright.

The dollar signs are already swirling for Dybala who – after his two goals against Barca – signed a new contract at Juve worth a reported €135,000 per week.

There are teams out there, presumably, ready to pay him a lot more.

The same goes for the hottest teenager on the planet who will line up against Dybala and Juve in the semis for Monaco. Kylian Mbappe was relatively anonymous to all but the closest observers of French football when he was named in the starting XI against Manchester City in the round of 16 in February.

An early goal and a performance dripping in class had jaws dropping open continent-wide. He added one more in the second leg as Monaco progressed and weighed in with a further three in two matches against Borussia Dortmund.

There is hype and then there is mania. This is mania.

Mbappe has scored 16 goals in his last 16 Monaco games and is the first player to score in each of his first four Champions League knockout matches. He will be up against a Juventus defence which hasn’t been breached in 441 Champions League minutes. That’s a whole new challenge altogether for the 18-year-old but he has taken everything in his short career so far in his awesome young stride.

Dybala is set to win his second consecutive Serie A championship and Mbappe is in line for a French Ligue 1 title with Monaco too. This has been the breakout year for both and the season they’ve been catapulted into the popular consciousness.

Messi and Ronaldo they might not be – nor will they ever be – but Dybala and Mbappe coming face to face gives fans a glimpse of the future.

In streets and playgrounds and holidays resorts around the world we might well see these two names on the shirts adorning the youngest shoulders as the world gets to grips with a post Messi and Ronaldo future. Then the next generation's super stars will be having their pictures taken alongside them and describing them as idols.