Let’s face it. There will never be another Cristiano Ronaldo.
While the five-time Ballon d’Or winner can’t match the seven triumphs achieved by fellow icon Lionel Messi, Ronaldo has carved out such a unique legacy that his place in footballing history is assured.
There is, however, always an inevitable desire among fans to debate who the sport’s next big thing will be.
Back in 2015, Ronaldo himself was asked to weigh in on which players at the time he believed had the potential to go on and achieve greatness in the game.
The five players Cristiano Ronaldo tipped for glory back in 2015
Long before the emergence of either Erling Haaland or Kylian Mbappe as potential heirs to his throne, Ronaldo highlighted five individuals whose talents had caught his eye.
Although none have managed to disrupt the Ronaldo and Messi duopoly of the Ballon d’Or – something only Luka Modric has been able to achieve since 2008 – each have gone on to have notable careers in their own right.
“You see many players with potential,” began Ronaldo, per The Mirror. “I will mention Martin Odegaard of Madrid, for example. At 16, he’s still young but you can see he’s a very good player.
“[Eden] Hazard is also another example, the number seven of Manchester United, Memphis Depay is a good player too, Paul Pogba and maybe Neymar.”
Almost seven years since those comments were made, let’s see how the quintet are faring today.
By June 2019, Belgian winger Hazard was highly thought of enough that Real Madrid parted with an initial €100 million to secure his services from Chelsea.
Injuries, combined with struggles for form, have seen Hazard make just 42 La Liga appearances across the two-and-a-half seasons he’s spent in the Spanish capital, contributing just four league goals. Supporters of Los Blancos would not be upset to see the 30-year-old move on.
Another player selected by Ronaldo who also endured a tough time at Real Madrid, Odegaard has flourished since leaving the Bernabeu for Arsenal in the summer – following a loan spell last term.
Make no mistake, the 23-year-old is hardly in the running to be considered one of the world’s best, but the Norwegian captain has certainly made his mark in north London. The 17 league appearances he’s made for the Gunners this season alone is more than double the amount he managed in his five seasons under contract at Real.
Big things were clearly expected of the Dutch international at Old Trafford when Ronaldo made his predictions. It didn’t go to plan – and he departed United with just 53 appearances and eight goals under his belt.
A move to Ligue 1 with Lyon revived his fortunes – with a strong five-season spell in France earning him a move to Barcelona. Eight goals in 15 La Liga outings so far isn’t bad going, but Memphis hasn’t lived up to the billing given him by Ronaldo.
Although a Juventus player at the time of Ronaldo’s interview, Pogba rejoined Manchester United in 2016 for a then-world record fee of €105m. In the close to six years he’s spent at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ since, the French World Cup winner has shown glimpses of his brilliance – without ever truly delivering on a consistent basis for the Red Devils.
The 28-year-old’s contract expires in the summer and it looks increasingly likely that his future lies elsewhere.
The 29-year-old Brazilian has shown his immense ability at the top-level over the past seven years – first for Barcelona and then for Paris Saint-Germain. Although he’s won plenty of trophies, the best Ballon d’Or finishes Neymar can boast is a pair of third-placed efforts (in 2015 and 2017).
An undoubted star, but one who’s possibly not lived up to his full potential.
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