Even a person who does not know much about football is aware of the existence of two footballers – Messi and Ronaldo. After all, they have somehow become the flagbearers of the beautiful game over the course of the past few years.
Anything that is even slightly related to these two is considered newsworthy. So it goes without saying that the news of a transfer will generate headlines like no other.
After Real Madrid clinched their third Champions League title in three years (three-peat), Ronaldo dropped a bombshell by hinting at a potential exit from the club. Although many billed this as an ‘attention-seeking act’, the statement did carry weight.
In the past few hours, the news of the Portuguese megastar bidding adieu to Los Blancos has caught fire. And frankly speaking, the rumor makes sense this time as Cristiano Ronaldo is 33 years old, an age when the majority of footballers become a shadow of their former selves by entering the twilight of their career.
On that note, here are 5 players who boast the potential to fill the massive boots of the Portuguese post his departure from Real Madrid.
#5 Leroy Sané
Numerous questions were raised at Pep Guardiola when he went all out to sign Leroy Sane for a fee worth £45m. Nevertheless, the fleet-footed German winger put all the brickbats to bed with his performance in the recently-concluded season, where he played a consequential part in Manchester City’s glorious title-winning run.
Blessed with remarkable pace and dribbling skills, Sane is a player who can slalom past opponents with ease and feed neat assists to strikers or lash the ball into the back of the net all by himself.
As such, he has established himself as one of the most menacing wingers in the sport. His omission from Joachim Loew’s final 23-man squad sent shockwaves around the football world and also ultimately contributed to Germany’s ignominious World Cup departure.
#4 Eden Hazard
Honestly, it’s quite surprising that Eden Hazard is still at a club which finished 5th in the Premier League, won’t play Champions League next season, has got financial problems and numerous other worries. Even the Belgian himself stated that his future at Stamford Bridge pivots on The Blues’ activity in the transfer market which has been all but zilch thus far.
Consequently, Hazard is expected to make a move away from his current club imminently and Florentino Perez will be in pole position to secure his services.
With the ball at his feet, the 27-year-old is a baleful sight for the defenders as it is a five-finger exercise for him to dance past the opposition effortlessly. Unlike Cristiano Ronaldo, Hazard is not a prolific goalscorer but he can bring out the best in the players around him.
#3 Mohamed Salah
The 2017-18 season was a career-changing one for Mohamed Salah, who unlocked his full potential under the tutelage of Jürgen Klopp. The 26-year-old notched up 44 goals in 52 matches for Liverpool including a record-breaking 32-goal campaign in the Premier League.
Salah’s style of play is very similar to the player he is tipped to replace. Just like Cristiano Ronaldo, he has a penchant for leathering the ball past the goalkeeper. But he is not solely a goal poacher.
The Egyptian boasts lightning pace and mesmerizing dribbling skills which help him run past opponents and exploit the space behind the defence, qualities which enabled him to excel in Klopp’s ‘Gegenpressing’ system.
#2 Kylian Mbappe
With his recent performance against Argentina in the Round of 16, Mbappe has thrust himself into the list of World Cup 2018 standouts and needless to say, has consequently found a place on Florentino Perez’s radar. The Spanish tycoon has a propensity for signing emerging stars from the World Cup as evidenced by the purchases of Mesut Özil in 2010 and James Rodríguez in 2014.
With the Frenchman’s acquisition, the Real Madrid president could pull off a hat-trick, making the 19-year-old a long-term replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo.
There’s no denying that Mbappe is one of the most gifted footballers on the planet and can not only effectively replace Ronaldo but can even go on to further his legacy.
As things stand, Neymar appears to be the ultimate option for Real Madrid if Cristiano Ronaldo eventually decides to vacate the legendary status he has held for nine successful seasons.
The 26-year-old does not only possess all the tools needed to succeed but even shares the same birthday as the distinguished Portuguese. On top of that, the move will allow him to form a deadly partnership with his Brazilian counterpart, Marcelo, on the left flank.
Besides, a return to La Liga will also increase his chances of winning the award he apparently lives for, the much-coveted Ballon d’Or.