One of the first questions asked between soccer fans is “who do you prefer Cristiano Ronaldo or Leo Messi?” Usually if the groups talking have different opinions it turns into what can be one of the most entertaining yet frustrating conversations someone can have. By all means, both players have their merits and flaws. Ronaldo has his incredible speed and remarkable finishing, but his defensive work rate isn’t exactly the greatest, plus his pretty boy image usually gets under some people’s skin. On the other hand, Messi is truly one of the greatest footballers to step onto a pitch. Breaking records left and right, like Ronaldo, he has a certain fluidity to his game that makes him a defender’s nightmare — although the taxes left unpaid and his rumored behavioral issues have soiled his perfect image. The question is who are the next two players to be compared like Messi and Ronaldo?
Looking at current statistics and where players are now I think it’s between Eden Hazard of Chelsea FC, Neymar of Barcelona, and Marco Reus of Borussia Dortmund. Gareth Bale is a player a lot of people are making noise about, but for the price tag Real Madrid has bought him for there isn’t much room for him to grow into the best when they bought him expecting him to be the best right out of the gate.
Starting with the Brazilian, Neymar has been a player a lot of people call overrated since he’s become a YouTube sensation, but there must be some sort of talent if he was the most sought after player in the past year. In 13 games for the La Liga outfit this season, he has scored four goals and created the opportunity for six goals, all with a flair that you’d expect from the young Brazilian. Although it may take time for him to become what Messi is now at Barcelona, he is absolutely a player that impresses (granted that he actually wants to play).
The Borussia Dortmund advanced midfielder, Marco Reus, is a dream come true for any coach to have. He was bought in 2011 from Borussia Monchengladbach for 18 million euros, and since then he has turned into a staple of Jurgen Klopp’s team. This year alone he has had six goals in 11 games and assisted three. His passing ability has also puts him to be one of the best and most accurate passers in the Bundesliga. Reus has put himself in a position where every club is chasing him and for a pretty penny also. In the game against Arsenal in the group stages he displayed the pinpoint accuracy that so many clubs seek in a player.
Real Madrid legend Zinedine Zidane spoke on Eden Hazard saying “Eden is technically gifted and very fast. I would take him to Real Madrid with my eyes closed. He can become a great footballer; he is a star of the future.” When the legendary Zizou calls you a “… star of the future,” it really true is because this kid is good. He is a defender’s nightmare, with an ability to change pace and direction with pinpoint precision and a capability to dribble past a defender that leaves them on the ground. In nine games for Chelsea this season he has scored four, assisted one, and he also currently is at an average of more than 80 percent completed passes. Hazard immediately took the Barclay’s Premier League by storm these past two seasons and left the French Ligue 1 with two Ligue 1 player of the year awards, something that neither Zidane or Thierry Henry was able to do.
All of the players mentioned have the opportunity to become Ballon D’Or contenders, if not make the short list at least. Everyone is aware that once again each player has their flaws, but from the recent past these three players have absolutely impressed the soccer community. Other players like Julian Draxler of Schalke 04 and Siem De Jong of Ajax have their place in a list like this. There is no denying that eventually CR7’s and Messi’s throne will be overrun by the young talents that are appearing around the world. Maybe the next best player is still an unknown player; let’s just hope that he emerges soon.