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Who will star next After Ronaldo and Messi

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi dominated the 2010s with their brilliance. No-one even came close.
But Juventus forward Ronaldo, 34, and Barcelona’s Messi, 32, can’t go on forever. Who will take their place?
Here are players that might emerge as new leaders of the global game over the next 10 years to come.


Kylian Mbappe (Paris St-Germain & France)

Mbappe is just 21, already a World Cup winner with France in Russia in 2018 and quite simply football’s greatest young star.
Blessed with blistering pace and a natural goalscorer’s eye, it is impossible to see how he can be diverted away from true greatness in the next decade.
He is the natural heir to the crown that will eventually be left behind by Messi and Ronaldo, with all the biggest prizes sure to be in his sights.
Mbappe is currently at Paris St-Germain, spearheading their quest for the elusive Champions League crown.
But his true worth will be demonstrated when he leaves – possibly next summer – for what will surely be a world record fee, with Real Madrid and Zinedine Zidane at the front of the queue.

Joao Felix (Atletico Madrid & Portugal)

Now 20 years old, Atletico Madrid spent a club record £113m to sign Joao Felix from Benfica in July. It was the world’s third highest transfer fee, paid for a then-teenager who had played just 43 first-team games.
His start at Atletico was hampered by injury and not being played in his most effective role, but the demanding Atleti manager Diego Simeone has now started to give him more freedom to express himself.
He is on his way to undoubtedly becoming the offensive trump card for a side who despite their defensive strengths frequently find it difficult to score.

Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund & England)

Jadon Sancho has to be in here because he is doing ridiculous things for Dortmund. I have been watching loads of him and he has just been killing it over there – goals, assists, his confidence through the roof.
What does he need to do next? Well, he is consistent already, doing it every week. You would usually point the finger at scoring more goals with young players like him but he is cool in front of goal and he has got his assists too. His end product is already there.
Maybe in some of the bigger games for Dortmund he has not quite been able to do it this year and that might be the question mark over him. He’s also had a little wobble with his discipline, so he probably needs to tighten up with that side of things, but apart from that he looks like a special player.
Ansu Fati (Barcelona & Spain U21)

Lightning fast, a superb dribbler of the ball, a natural finisher with a superb vision and an understanding of the game that belies his youth, the story of the 17-year-old Ansu Fati could have been penned by a Hollywood screenwriter.
The son of an immigrant from Guinea Bissau, he arrived in Spain in Seville with his mother and brother at the age of six after his father had arrived earlier looking for work. An obvious natural talent from the start, he was signed by Barcelona for their La Masia academy at just 10 years of age and was this season catapulted into the first team without even having played for the reserves.
Now aged 17, he is Barcelona’s youngest ever senior team goalscorer, youngest player ever to score and assist in the same game and youngest to represent the club in the Champions League.
He bears an uncanny resemblance to the style and performances shown by a certain Lionel Messi at the same age.
He also has a new €170m release clause in his current contract, which is set to rise to €400m when he signs full professional terms.

Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool & England)

The attackers provide the glamour, but in 21-year-old Alexander-Arnold, Liverpool have the perfect dual purpose player who is efficient in defence but devastating in attack, where his trademark delivery from wide positions has been a rich source of goals.
Alexander-Arnold has already won the Champions League with Liverpool and it is only a matter of time before he fully establishes himself as England’s first-choice right-back, with the potential to be one of the stars of Euro 2020.
Indeed, such is Alexander-Arnold’s range of passing, creation and the ability to get a goal that it would be no surprise if he developed into a world-class midfielder at some point in the future.

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