Every so often a practitioner approaches an art and is so good they completely redefine what it is to partake in that activity. When you think of footballers that changed the game, Pele and Maradona may come up in most peoples lists, but certainly nobody can forget the genius of Lionel Messi.
When I watch Messi, I am transported back to my youth and why I was interested in football in the first place. Watching players like Darren Huckerby and Gus Poyet sprinting skillfully down the wing, certainly when football is played well there is nothing better to watch.
Messi suffers from a growth hormone deficiency, which, amongst other things, caused him to only grow to an adult height of 5ft 6in. Despite this, now at the age of 24 Messi has won 15 trophies, including helping Barcelona to win the champions league title three times. The age of 24-26 is arguably believed to be the peak age of an footballer’s career, Messi is in his prime. However, when acknowledging Messi’s genius, one is invited toward the question of his successor. Will there be a player in the next five years that will be as good as Messi?
To try and find the ‘next Messi’ we need to think about what makes him ‘so good’ at breaking down defenses. Firstly he has such fantastic skill, he is able to move around players with so much ease because he can accomplish with ease moves the majority of footballers can’t do. Secondly, the ball is so close to his feet. Defenders are unable to tackle him because his feet are so fast and close to the ball. Penultimately he is a clever footballer some journalist’s may look on the term ‘footballing brain’ with hilarity but it is a legitimate skill. He knows what to do just enough to bring down defenses and trick the opposition Lastly, what makes him such a fantastic talent is he is able to do these things so fast. Most players take much longer to carry out such complicated skill moves but he can carry it out with so much ease.
Naymar, Santos, (20)
It’s probably no surprise that the first name we look at is a Brazilian. Brazil have led skill schools basically since competitive football began. Brazilians are so skillful because they practice street football when they are very young. The trick is using a very small football and that forces young footballers to practice skill in order to retain possession.
Naymar has already played in every stage of the Brazilian national team as a forward. You know he must be good if he has a first team striking place in the Brazilian squad. He has scored 40 goals in 85 appearances for his club, Santos. He has already been likened to Pele, and presents a good all round striker. He is very fast with very good skill; that coupled a good finish, makes him a formidable opponent. He is relatively young for a footballer and can only get better.
Christian Tello, Barcelona, (20)
A relatively new player on the world’s stage. Many people became aware of him in Barcelona’s 7-1 demolishing of Bayer Leverkusen, in which he scored two goals and Messi scored five. He is spanish, and has appeared in every aspect of the youth national game but not the national team.
He is famed for his finishing, but is largely believed to not have reached his full potential being young and somewhat inexperienced. However he is certainly one to look out for in the future.
Mario Götze, Borussia Dortmund, (19)
German players are famed around the world and having a cool head and structured to fit into their place within a team. Mario is an attacking midfielder and has featured highly in Dortmunds recent highly succesfull season in Bundesliga. He rised through Dortmund’s Youth team. Despite being only 19 he has a first team spot in the German national team. He has attracted some very high profile praise from many former german national players.
He is still in his fondation years however although certainly has the potential for greater things. His speed, creativity coupled with good technical skill and a good footballing brain allow comparisons to Messi although he is an entirely different player. It would be hard for him to play like Messi since Messi has a very latin american style to his game.
Eden Hazard, Lille, (21)
Certainly with a name like his he has to very good at something. Although he is only 21 he is quite experiences having a lot of game time for Lille. His various comparisons to Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have attracted various scouts from the premier league and at least four premier league clubs are said to be interested in him. He is Belgian and plays in the national team.
Although he play’s with a distinctly european flair many comparisons can be made to him and Messi. He has great pace and technical ability. His small stature means that in can run in between players and expose gaps other players cannot. He has been credited as ‘possibly the best talent in Europe right now’ and has a good chance to play in Britain in the next few years. Again, certainly one to look out for in the future.
Sergio Agüero, Manchester City, (23)