Lionel Messi has transcended himself beyond any parallels which the world could have juxtaposed alongside the Argentine stalwart. Rising through the ranks by showboating crazy football skills that saw him gliding past the defenders in the flash of an eye, pulling off insane goals which made the goalkeepers feel non-existent and finally leading the Catalans in a war against the extremes.
No replacements can ever take his place in the history of football but once again we are all aware of the fact that no matter how invincible you may be, on one fine day you will have to say goodbye as you venture into that long and cold night. When the time comes for that supernova, the world must have players ready who can take the place of the sun so that the universe survives.
We will look at five players who can be the probable replacement for Lionel Messi when the time arrives.
1. Kylian Mbappe
This 20-year old French international has already created ripples around him right since his takeover at France with rock-solid performances that left the world in awe of this speedster.
Known for his blistering runs in both the planks, Mbappe can wreak havoc at will as this youngster also boasts of a prolific shooting ability.
This man started with his meteoric rise in football right since his arrival at Monaco as he fired 16 goals from 41 games in the French-based outfit. His debut with the club broke the record of the youngest player to feature for Monaco which was previously held by Thierry Henry at the age of 21 years. Mbappe achieved it at 16 years and 347 days.
After establishing himself as a prolific goal-scoring machine he was loaned to Paris Saint Germain and he started working out winders for the French squad. He managed to score a staggering 13 times in his 27 appearances for the club, out of which a few extraordinary goals from this wunderkind left the fans in awe of him.
It was quite obvious that letting this star go would be nothing short of tomfoolery and as expected, he notched up a permanent contract at the club.
Since his loan move has been cemented in the French squad, he has gone on to fire 51 goals from 49 appearances, a figure which by no means is trivial in case of any footballer.
Now, why exactly can he be the best swap for Messi? Messi has a proclivity towards dropping deep and creating chances for the team with some wondrous performances. However, Mbappe literally fires at any position that he runs in. He doesn’t drop deep to create chances but his speed gets him in a gilt-edged position in a counter-attack that also secures a convenient situation for him to shoot.
Yesternight was a burning testimony to this scorching pace of the Frenchman as was always present at the end of every long ball which were paved for him from the defensive third. The equation here is simple, if Mbappe replaces Messi, then it won’t be as creative as you want it to be, but it will be a lot more potent and Barcelona will have a class attacker in their ranks who can score until that dying moment.
2. Kevin De Bruyne
Though at 29 years of age, De Bruyne maybe considered to be a tad bit too old for Barcelona but his illustrious stint in the colours of Manchester City and Belgium have attested to the fact that if he gets going, his opponents are in for a very rough day.
City lost to a brilliant Lyon last week and most of the drama unfolded in the last 10 minutes of regulation time. However, before that City reigned supreme and the barrage of attacks which were unleashed upon the French stalwarts left them reeling. It was De Bruyne who was at the heart of them all, shimmying and prancing his way past those hapless defenders, making headway at will. He was also the one to restore parity with a thunderous strike from a Sterling assist.
This Belgian beast is an excellent ball-player as he is known for his terrific control in the midfield. He can carve gilt-edged opportunities without breaking a sweat. He has fired home a whopping 36 goals and strung up 66 assists from 155 appearances for City.
Over his glittering span of 5 seasons at Etihad, he has managed to fire 363 shots out of which 129 were on target, thereby boasting a decent accuracy percentage of 36.
Like Mbappe, he is not an exact replica of Messi in standards of the playing style. He is more of a player who rallies his forces from the deep and then belts out that coup de grace to obliterate his opponents, but the tremendous workload which the Belgian takes is beyond the extraordinary and that makes him one of the best picks to fill the unfathomable void left by Messi.
3. Neymar Jr
A highly criticized figure at Camp Nou, Neymar switched loyalties to PSG after failing to make a breakthrough for himself under the towering shadow of the Argentine god. However, this man holds the key to be a perfect super-sub for Messi as his crazy skills place him beyond the ordinary.
The Brazilian striker has evolved into one of the most fearsome midfielders in the recent days and has played the second fiddle to Mbappe in the colours of PSG. Honestly, his speed and his skill set, makes him an extremely difficult athlete to contain.
His performance in the ongoing UCL has also underlined the fact that why Brazil values hi over anyone, despite him being injury-prone.
He was already savouring a fabulous season at Camp Nou as he managed to score 68 goals from 123 appearances, however his numbers shot up through the roof, once he arrived in France. For PSG, he has managed to score 47 goals from 52 matches, despite being on the sidelines for the most of the season with injuries and niggles.
If the Catalan giants are willing to splurge a fortune to get the star back to their ranks, it will be ecstasy for the eyes, but in the long run, the management will have to be extremely alert to tend to his hurts, due to his fragile stature in the middle of the field.
4. Thiago Almada
Going by the aforementioned names, Almada is quite a greenhorn in the contest of greats to replace Messi but he is an extremely bright and exciting prospect throughout Europe and has been under the radar of several English clubs, with Manchester City and Arsenal leading the race.
Though his goal-scoring finesse is still not that sharp as it should be to replace the likes of Messi, but his phenomenal stint in the heart of Velez Sarsfield has been nothing short of wondrous.
He has the knack of dropping deep and carving those killer opportunities that makes him a hot favourite for the future generation of stars. He was also included in The Guardian’s “Next Generation 2018”, owing to his blistering speed on the wings and also in the centre.
Just 19, he has all the time in the world to hone his shooting skills and establish himself as one of the best in the world and also a probable replacement for Messi both in Barcelona and Argentina.
5. Marcus Rashford
This English striker has led the United attacking front at a tender age of just 22 years. Making his debut with a stunning brace against the Gunners, Rashford established his class with back to back rip-roaring performances.
Primarily used as a striker, Rashford evolved into a more lethal option when Ole restored him in the wings. With scorching pace up his sleeves, he is capable of unfurling blazes upon his counterparts. His glorious free-kick from 35 yards away that saw United edge past a soaring Chelsea was a testimony of his gilt-edged brilliance that placed him on the pedestal.
Showing sparks of excellence along the wings, where he can drop deeper, collect the ball and speed past his opponents to hammer that telling blow, he will be an extremely lucrative option for anyone, especially Barcelona, given their wondrous line-up.
From 142 appearances the English striker has managed to slam home a whopping 44 goals, that has seen him being a part of 76 victories and 27 losses.
He has also managed to fire 300 shots out of which 130 were on target, thereby boasting about a better accuracy percentage than Kevin De Bruyne.
With 21 assists and 2926 passes, he suits the perfect Barcelona style of passing football, thereby pushing him to be a massive contender for a place at Camp Nou.