It is fairly well accepted now that the two best footballers in the world, bar Andres Iniesta, in an attacking sense are hands-down Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
Both have demonstrated goalscoring exploits of never before seen proportions and last season they both took those achievements to greater heights with Ronaldo scoring 63 and Lionel Messi scoring 91 goals in the 2012 calendar year.
Which leaves you wondering; can anybody ever achieve such feats again?
Some point to the eventual arrival of Neymar on European shores as the next great player to play in Europe but personally I have never seen any of the evidence necessary to suggest he could become such a player.
Newcastle United player Hatem Ben Arfa believes he could be as good as Messi according to some reports this week; which is a laughable claim so who really could become the next Ronaldo or Messi?
Messi is currently 25-years-old so is there anyone under that threshold ready to become the world’s next great footballer?
Gareth Bale - Tottenham Hotspur
The Tottenham Hotspur winger is certainly more in the Ronaldo realm than that of Messi. Tall, strong, good in the air and he has even re-found his excellent proficiency from dead-ball situations.
He is currently enjoying his best ever goalscoring season for Spurs and has recently found a place in the centre of the pitch to high acclaim.
At 23-years-old he still has plenty of time to grow and could certainly be one of the world’s best.
To improve however he will have to certainly get better on his right foot, avoid niggling injury problems and play Champions League football next season; at Spurs or not.
Wilfried Zaha - Manchester United
Another player in the mould of Ronaldo with an abundance of tricks allied by speed, strength and incredible self-belief. I am a big believer in this boys talents and I do not think he could be going anywhere better than Manchester United to continue his development.
Out of all the young footballers in the world this lad reminds me the most of Ronaldo at his age and under Old Trafford guidance he could certainly become a world-beater.
He could improve on his decision making and he certainly needs to find the net more. Converting that raw ability into performances on the pitch will be his hardest challenge.
Viktor Fischer - Ajax
If there is a young player in world football anything like Lionel Messi then it is this guy at Ajax. Deceptively quick, both footed, an excellent dribbler and passer of the ball he is also pretty clinical in front of goal.
He has banged in the goals at youth level and now aged just 18 he has made his international debut for Denmark and scored six goals in 13 Eredivisie games this season; the majority from the bench.
In terms of improvement it is hard to say. He has a tendency to keep the ball for too long but that was an issue Messi dealt with in his early days and it has paid him dividends in the long run. Keep going the way he is now and he may be the best candidate out there.
Marco Reus - Borussia Dortmund
The Dortmund winger has all the attributes to be one of the world’s best players. Admired by the likes of Franz Beckenbauer he was named German Footballer of the Year in 2012.
At just 23-years-old there is certainly scope or him to make the centre of the park his preferred position and if he can add more goals to his excellent passing and dribbling game he may became unstoppable.
James Rodriguez - Porto
He has already been dubbed the ‘Next Ronaldo’ and that is largely down to his physical strength and ferocious shooting ability. He dribbles like the Portuguese star as well with his head firmly up and with pace and purpose.
Positionally dextrous across the forward line if he continues to improve at his current rate the 21-year-old may very well be one of the best.
It is always hard to predict the next big thing in football but the five above are the ones I personally see as having the similar characteristics to Ronaldo and Messi who are currently head and shoulders above the rest of the footballing world.
One of these names will make it to the big time, others will be very good but perhaps not outstanding and one of them may get injured and end up playing out his football in the lower divisions of his homeland; that is football.
But if the circumstances pan out right I would bet my house on one of these names being mentioned as a potential World Footballer of the Year before their careers are up.
Who do you think is the next Ronaldo or Messi?
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