End of an era! Has Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland surpassed Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in the pecking order?

Mbappe is just 23 years old, while Haaland is only 22, yet what they have achieved so far in their short career is simply phenomenal.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in a file photo, Credit: Twitter/@LaLiga
By Karthik Raman | Oct 22, 2022 | 8 Min Read follow icon Follow Us


It seemed like only yesterday that Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi were going neck-to-neck, battling it out for every possible honour. There wasn’t much between them as they broke record after record, year after year. At the time, it felt like the day would never come when these two footballing legends might no longer be the main stars in the world. However, the dreaded day appears to have finally arrived. Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland – from the looks of it – seem to have taken over the mantle from the legendary duo.

Make no mistake that Ronaldo and Messi are still one of the most revered names in world football. What they have achieved and the longevity of their success can never be forgotten. However, the time has come when these two players are no longer mentioned among the elites. For a while now, many names were thrown in the pool to see who among the rest will be able to replace the dynamic duo at the top of the football chain. Several potential talents came and went but the two who stuck along were Mbappe and Haaland.

It is not a surprise to see the French-Norwegian duo being labeled as the next big thing in world football, especially when their achievements for their respective clubs and countries are taken into consideration. Mbappe is just 23 years old, while Haaland is only 22, yet what they have achieved so far in their short career is simply phenomenal. They have already scored a whopping 370 club goals between them. Many strikers won’t even reach their prime till they touch 26 or 27 years of age. Yet, these two wonderkids are already exceeding expectations.

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Are Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi the focal points of their respective clubs?

It does not get better than Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in their prime. There was very little to separate them in their heyday and they could be compared to any player in any era and still, these two would come out on top. Besides, their prime lasted for so long, not many imagined how the world would look when they are no longer the main guys in their team. But the time has come for them to take the back seat. Let us find out how crucial they are in their respective club’s setup:

Cristiano Ronaldo

Things are not going according to plan for Cristiano Ronaldo following his dream second coming to Manchester United. The Red Devils had their poorest return in terms of points in Premier League history last time out. United could only manage 58 points from 38 games – their lowest ever in the Premier League. Ronaldo was the only positive amidst the manager changes, dressing room leaks and poor on-field performances. 

The Portuguese star kept delivering week after week. In the end, Ronaldo scored 24 goals in all competitions, including six in the Champions League. For a 37-year-old, those were unbelievable numbers. However, he was not helped by his teammates, as they let him and the team down on numerous occasions. In the end, Manchester United could only manage a sixth-place finish in the Premier League and were knocked out in the round-of-16 stage in the Champions League.

Cristiano Ronaldo's brace helps Manchester United to a win against Arsenal; Credit: Twitter/@Cristiano
File photo – Cristiano Ronaldo’s brace helps Manchester United to a win against Arsenal; Credit: Twitter/@Cristiano

Sadly, it only got worse for Ronaldo. The current season is turning into a nightmare for the Portuguese star already. After reportedly failing to get a move away from Old Trafford this summer, Ronaldo no longer seems to be the main guy under new manager Erik ten Hag. He has not only ceased to be the focal point of the team, but has also lost his place in the starting XI, which few expected at the start of the season.

Cristiano RonaldoMatchesGoalsAssists
Overall Club Career945700222
From 2021-22 Season till now (Manchester United)51264

While Ronaldo scored a lot of goals last season, his lack of work rate without the ball was a regular topic of debate. Many believed Ronaldo will struggle to play in a system that mainly depends on high pressing. Those suggestions have been proved right in this campaign, atleast till now. Ten Hag clearly prefers a young pacy Marcus Rashford over a player in his late-30s. Sadly for Ronaldo though United are doing well in his absence from the Starting XI. Ronaldo has made just two starts in the Premier League till now and on both occasions, United failed to win. He has managed to play only 340 minutes in the league till now. Overall, Ronaldo has found the back of the net only twice in 12 games.

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Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi’s time came to an abrupt and sad ending with Barcelona in the summer of 2021. It was a day many believed would never come. After coming through the Barcelona ranks, the Argentinian was expected to retire at Camp Nou. As fate would have it, Barcelona’s dire financial situation meant, Messi had to leave Spain for France. He joined Paris Saint-Germain and was received with a lot of fanfare.

Unfortunately though Messi’s first season did not go according to the script. He struggled for form at the domestic level and in Europe. PSG also failed to live up to the expectations. Much was made at the start of last season about the link-up between Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar. However, the trio were not able to form a convincing partnership on the pitch. Messi could only manage 11 goals in all competitions during the 2021-22 season.

Champions League PSG Real Madrid
Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe in a file photo. (Credit: [email protected])

Despite being labelled as a Champions League favourites, PSG crashed at the last-16 stage to eventual champions Real Madrid. Even though they won the Ligue 1 title, manager Mauricio Pochettino was relieved of his duties and in came Christophe Galtier. Under his management, both the club and Messi are thriving in the early stages of the season. The Argentine magician already has nine goals and 10 assists in just 15 games across all competitions. 

Lionel MessiMatchesGoalsAssists
Overall Club Career827692328
From 2021-22 Season till now (PSG)492025

However, the biggest problem is that Messi is no longer the main player at PSG. He has lost that status to Kylian Mbappe. The Frenchman was widely anticipated to leave for Real Madrid in the summer but PSG convinced him to stay by providing him with a lucrative contract that reportedly consists of several assurances. This new deal has only solidified Mbappe’s position in the squad, thereby leaving Messi in unfamiliar territory. It is strange to see the 35-year-old not being the main man at a club, but it is what it is, and Messi must swallow the bitter pill.

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Kylian Mbappe is the golden boy of French football

What Kylian Mbappe has accomplished at such a young age is something that few players achieve in their entire career. The 23-year-old is already a World Cup winner. He played a pivotal role in helping France win the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Mbappe is already the main man for Paris Saint-Germain and is doing wonders at such a young age. He started playing football at an early age, hence it is hard to believe that he is only 23 years old.

Kylian MbappeMatchesGoalsAssists
Overall Club Career297217108
From 2021-22 Season till now (PSG)615328

He already has 217 goals at the club level, which is an incredible statistic for a 23-year-old. Mbappe also has 28 goals at the international level with France. Among those goals is also a strike in the World Cup final against Croatia, thereby he became the second teenager after Pele to find the back of the net in the final of a World Cup. He was a target of Real Madrid earlier this summer, however, Mbappe has now committed his future to PSG.

Kylian Mbappe for Paris Saint-Germain; Credit: Twitter/@KMbappe
Kylian Mbappe of Paris Saint-Germain in a file photo; Credit: Twitter/@KMbappe

He is in a team that has Lionel Messi and Neymar, yet Kylian Mbappe continues to be their main man. He scored a total of 39 goals and came up with 26 assists in 46 games across all competitions for PSG last season. Mbappe has shown the club why he should be their man for the future, even if it was not enough to lead them to Champions League glory. He has all the necessary skill sets to become a future star.

Erling Haaland’s time has come

Erling Haaland is the talk of the town in England. The Norwegian has eased into Manchester City’s setup this season and has been scoring goals for fun. It has only been three months since his move to the Etihad Stadium and the 22-year-old has already found the back of the net 22 times this season in just 15 games across all competitions. This is an unbelievable start to life at arguably one of the toughest leagues in world football.

Erling HaalandMatchesGoalsAssists
Overall Club Career19815739
From 2021-22 Season till now (Dortmund + Man City)455111

Several top professionals take time to settle down in England after moving in from other leagues. However, Haaland needed little to no time, as he raced to the top of the scoring charts. While the centre-forward might not provide much in the way of assists, he certainly makes up for it with his lethal finishing. Be it with his left foot, right foot, or head, Haaland has been unstoppable in front of goal.

Kylian Mbappe was expected to break Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi’s domination in the Ballon d’Or awards. However, Haaland seems to be leading the race for the prestigious prize already this season. There is still a long way to go and anything can happen in the second half of the campaign. However, to think that Haaland is younger than Mbappe and already outscoring him demonstrates how talented the Norwegian is. One thing is for certain – the time has come for Haaland and Mbappe to rule the football world.



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