At the end of the day, eras come and go. Some may be longer than others but when one’s time is up, one’s time is up.
On Tuesday, the 2021 UEFA Champions League knockout stages began with a mouth-watering tie in the Camp Nou as Barcelona hosted a Neymar-less Paris Saint Germain. We knew that Barcelona was on a downward slope all along. What we did not expect was Kylian Mbappe scoring a superb hat-trick at the Camp Nou and Lionel Messi – and Barcelona- having a very poor game at home.
On Wednesday, Erling Haaland assisted and scored twice as Borussia Dortmund came from behind to defeat Sevilla at the Sanchez Pizjuan. While in Portugal, Ronaldo and Juventus put up a very poor display and deservedly lost to a very good Porto side on the night.
While this is not to say that the aforementioned ties are over or the Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo cannot roll back the years once again, Kylian Mbappe leading the line and taking full (attacking) responsibility in the absence of a regularly-injured-during-the-knockout-phase Neymar and scoring a hat-trick in the process and Erling Haaland scoring a brace and assisting a goal against a very resolute Sevilla team kind of gives us a glimpse into what the future is for football.
By normal football standards, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are at the twilight of their footballing careers. Ronaldo celebrated his 36th birthday earlier in the month while Messi will be 34 in June. For about 15 years, we have seen Messi and Ronaldo deliver astronomical figures in goals and assists in all competitions. Although they are still registering insane numbers, it is expected for one to start looking at where the next footballing gems (players) would come from.
I guess we do not need to look to far.
Erling Haaland has scored 18 goals in 13 games in the Champions League so far. That is impressive for any top player, let alone a 20 year old. Continue at that rate and he would have approximately 208 goals in 150 games. His eye for goal for someone so young and is not even close to his peak is truly amazing.
For Kylian Mbappe, he has scored 24 goals In 41 games with 17 assists to boot. In total, he has 141 goals in 216 games. He will be 23 in December. Mbappe is more of an all action forward as he can play wide, is quick, has a wide range of skills and has tons of experience.
Ultimately, Messi and Ronaldo may never be replaced and they will be sorely missed when they retire. However, the likes of Mbappe and Haaland are already making football fans look forward to the new era.