The UEFA Champions League returned during the week and it is safe and cliche to say, it returned with a bang.
Goals were scored, there were interesting results as there were shockers. However, the biggest talking point was the emergence of a new order or a change of guard as the case may be.
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have dominated the biggest individual awards in football for over a decade and it is not unconnected to their heroics in the Champions League.
Nights of saving their teams from the brink of defeats, nights of scoring jaw-dropping goals and doing insane numbers.
However, during the week Ronaldo’s Juventus and Messi’s Barcelona suffered defeats, none of them could save their teams from the jaw of defeats. Instead, young Kylian Mbappe put Barcelona to the sword with a magnificent hattrick.
The following day, Erling Haaland scored two and provided one as Borussia Dortmund won away at Sevilla. It has led to questions, are Mbappe and Haaland the next big things in football?
Presently, Mbappe and Haaland are doing insane numbers in the Champions League and in football generally.
Both seems to be direct, effective and devastating just like prime Ronaldo and Messi. Haaland has eight goals in just five Champions League matches this season and 25 goals in 24 matches in all. Mbappe has scored five in six Champions League matches and 21 in 29 in all.
It is interesting to note that there is already some form of challenge. After Mbappe’s heroics on Tuesday, Haaland said he was inspired by the performance to also come up good the next day – Wednesday.
“I saw Mbappe yesterday and he scored some nice goals and I got a free boost from him! So yeah, it was nice.” Haaland said.
It is reminiscent of how Messi did something today and Ronaldo is expected to respond the next day or vice versa and most times, they don’t fail to disappoint.
Comparing the two, Mbappe has been around for longer and achieved more than his Norwegian rival.
Mbappe is already a World Cup winner. At 20, he was the best young player at the 2018 World Cup as Les Bleus won their second world title. Apart from winning numerous Ligue 1 titles with PSG, as expected, he was pivotal as a young Monaco side upset the odds to win the Ligue 1 in 2017.All Haaland has to show are league titles with RB Salzburg in Austria. In terms of honours, Mbappe is still way ahead of Haaland.
The Messi versus Ronaldo narrative took an interesting turn when Ronaldo moved to Real Madrid. It meant they both played for arguably the biggest clubs in the world – Barcelona and Real Madrid. The competition became more fierce and the comparisons more direct.
With Mbappe and Haaland right now, it appears they have to make the big moves to really bring the competition to the fore and to also better their lots in terms of team accolades. Mbappe is with arguably one of the biggest clubs in the world presently but winning Ligue 1 titles won’t put him in the big league, he has to make a move to the bigger clubs in the biggest leagues.
For Haaland, making a move is a no-brainer, Dortmund is at best a stepping stone to greater things. Their next moves will determine how big their competition will be and how big they will be as footballers.
In terms of their styles, Mbappe looks like the all-rounder. Most times playing on the flanks, off a center-forward. His pace is probably his biggest weapon but he also packs a bag of tricks and a devastating goalscoring ability. He looks like he will end up as a center-forward – a poacher in the mould of Ronaldo de Lima. Haaland is a fast center-forward with good aerial prowess and surprisingly quick feet, he is also a devastating finisher. Both guys look like they still have so much off their sleeves in terms of scoring goals, the numbers – goals will be very pivotal to the comparison or rivalry going forward.
There are also some youngsters showing signs they could become very big. It may not be limited to this two. The likes of Jadon Sancho, Phil Foden, Frenkie De Jong etc. could also be or part of the next big things.
Regardless of how the competition goes, one or both of them is expected to win the Ballon D’Or and FIFA the Best titles. With both Ronaldo and Messi aging and gradually approaching the swansong of their careers, it is good for the game of football and the narratives that a new rivalry seems to be building – Mbappe vs Haaland.