Haaland’s boundless ambition… Vinicius’ unpredictable dribbling… Mbappé’s feline power…? Which one will prevail…? Who will be the best in the world…? We are not talking about winning the Ballon d’Or one year and then going down a few steps (cases of Kaká, Lewandowski or Benzema) but about someone who takes the throne of Lionel Messi and maintain the leading role, not fifteen years like Leo, but five years at least. Or will there be a pulse like that of Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo…? We venture into a comparative analysis.

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Soccer is a collective sport that loves to enthrone individual figures. We love to know who will be the new Ballon d’Or, who was the figure on the field, who scores the most goals… Idols and stars are a substantial part of the universal popularity of football. And now that we are beginning to witness Messi’s slow twilight, we look forward to discovering who will succeed him. People often make the mistake of calling someone who has had a great season the “best player in the world”. This sign is for those who have kept it for a considerable period of time. No one can be Messi’s heir, no one is so complete in technique, genius, creation of attacking maneuvers, vision of the game, dribbling, goals, assists. But someone will receive the post, life goes on.

Many are inclined towards Erling Haaland, that scoring machine that threatens to break the records of Cristiano (834 goals) and Messi (805).. He does not drop brilliance from the bag, he is not clumsy either. He will never enchant by exquisiteness, his thing is the goal at any cost. In his voracity to convert there is a subtle difference with Cristiano: he seems more of a team player. His goals do not have the sole destination of increasing his personal numbers. He celebrates the conquests of his companions.

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It reaches the net in various ways: running over, headfirst, rebounding, counterattacking with spaces, being in the area, flying through the air, like the extraordinary goal that He scored against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League. He is a savage goal. At first they thought of a big man stationed at the penalty spot, a mistake, he has a lot of mobility, he starts from behind, when he leaves the area he participates in the team’s assembly circuit and is not denied, he delivers the ball very well and hits it with precision. Exactly the two basic conditions of a super scorer: shoot well and be fast. He brings both together. Unlike Cristiano and Messi, Haaland does not take free kicks. For now… If he learns, that route could bring him many more goals.

Erlong Haaland of Manchester City.

He plays against his team: Norway is not a power, they will surely score fewer goals there than Mbappé or others who are better surrounded. Although very possibly it will reach the 2026 World Cup, to which 18 European teams will qualify. He already scored 9 goals once in a U-20 World Cup match, 5 in a Champions League match, 4 while at Dortmund and several times in threes. He is 1.94 meters tall and has a body that allows him to withstand defenders, even knock them over, but the most important thing about him, in addition to his eye for goals, is not strength but positioning: he is always where the ball lands. He is instinct. And he defines with the manual. A monster that, if not severely injured, will fill an era. At 22 years and 9 months he has scored 204 goals in 230 games, with a fantastic average of 0.89. He adds 38 assists. We do not see negative points. Yes, a maybe: how it will be physically at 34 or 35 years old. You have to start winning titles.

Mbappé is a cheetah. Possibly the most powerful footballer in history among the big-bigs. Ronaldo Phenomenon was breaking, Pelé was not so light, Gerd Müller was a rock, but not fast either. Perhaps Eusebio could resist a parallel with Kylian. The one from Mozambique was a panther. This is a combination of equal parts strength, speed and agility. If he throws it long, he’s gone, no one can match his line. The secret to marking it is to overtake it and anticipate it, never wait for it or zone it. His is also the goal, although it is not from the area, he starts about ten meters from the area, from the left wing, makes the diagonal and looks for the three sticks. He doesn’t have a refined technique either, in one against one he wins by speed, not by talent or deceit, and many times, due to his own vertigo, promising plays get dirty or spoiled. He is very strong in the head. He has a number one soul and prepares for it. He learns, he has perfected his shot, especially on the right, he adjusts it to the post. He is already in charge of penalties and free kicks at PSG and the national team. That will help you statistically. He takes leads. He takes charge.


Kirill Kudryiavtsev. AFP

His negative points: he needs an assistant who enables him in depth (at PSG it is Messi, in France, Griezmann), he does not elaborate on his own. And he passes the ball badly, surprisingly badly a lot of the time. Or he is abstracted from the game, like in the Qatar 2022 final, in which he watched the game for 80 minutes. And he has a sweet tooth: he doesn’t always play it when some comrade is better placed. But he is a team player. At 24 years and 4 months old, he has scored 270 goals in 391 matches, at an average of 0.69. He has 93 assists. He has one for Mbappé: they just tell him the good ones. When he misses goals or is absent (as against Bayern Munich) we don’t talk.

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The third way is Vinicius, a bull with daring, skill and fantasy. He has jumped on this bandwagon in recent months with impressive – and regular – performances at Real Madrid, not yet in Brazil. He scores far fewer goals than Haaland and Mbappé, but he far surpasses them in relation to the ball. He is superior to the other two in one-on-one, despite the fact that his dribbling is monothematic: he fakes out and hooks in to then unload the right hand on goal or the pass to the middle. He is a factor of permanent imbalance. It has been great for him to have a teacher like Benzema by his side. He arrived at the most winning club in the world and it already looks like his backyard, as if he had been at the Bernabéu all his life. He does not weigh stardom. Diego Torres, a lucid analyst for the Madrid newspaper El País, assures that “he does not have a Ballon d’Or level and cannot be compared to Haaland or Mbappé.”

However, we’re adding it because it’s on the rise and you’re being warned that you want more. Like Haaland, he is 22 years and 4 months old, has 74 goals in 305 games, with an average of 0.24. A sort of Ronaldinho with less magic, but more physical vigour. A nice player to watch, because he offers spectacle as well as performance. The fierce industry of Real Madrid already promotes him as the best in the world, but he still lacks to be. He will have to fight a lot with the first two. He is helped by his club and his team, which always have top-quality squads. Vinicius’s threat is Neymarization, that is, a relaxed and energetic life off the field and a bellicose attitude on it, always ready to enter into disputes with rivals, referees, fans, assistants. It can also be said, to his credit, that he likes war in the game, he does not take his body out, he is handsome.

Which one will decide as king of this generation…? Difficult to predict today, they are even. They may alternate one year one, one year another. Time will speak.


For the time

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