First, there was the next Pele; then there was the next Maradona – in modern football, no young player can be introduced without being the seen as the next someone.
We have more access than ever to football; we can watch so many games, so many players and make much more accurate and fitting judgements about players than ever before.
This gives us far more reference points and allows us to say ‘this guy is the next Messi’ or ‘that kid’s going to be bigger than Ronaldo.’
While sometimes these comparisons can be unhelpful and place undue pressure on young players, often it can be enjoyable to compare up and coming players with the stars that we all love to watch. This article is going to indulge a little in that fun and highlight three young stars hoping to emulate some of the world’s best players.
Alexander Isak. The next Zlatan Ibrahimovic
After crashing out of the group stages at Euro 2016, Zlatan Ibrahimovic called time on his incredible national team career. Losing Zlatan was a huge blow for Sweden and left a lot of Swedes wondering if they will ever be able to fill the void he has left. (Manchester United)
Step forward Alexander Isak, the 17-year-old from Solna. Like Zlatan, he is tall, strong and brilliant both on and off the ball plus he’s an excellent finisher.
The striker wowed crowds at the Friends Arena last season scoring ten goals in 24 games for AIK including two in a derby day win over local rivals Djurgarden.
He is Sweden’s youngest goalscorer at 17 years and 113 days and his move to Dortmund has made him the most expensive Allsvenskan player ever. Hopes are high he can play consistently at the top level and fill Zlatan’s huge boots.
Jordi Mboula. The next Messi
There have been a lot of replacements for Messi. There was Lorenzo Insigne, Juan Manuel Iturbe, Maxi Romero; and the list goes on. None of these players ever hit the heights of Messi, some went on to have excellent careers but time and time again players have fallen short of the Barcelona icon.
Jordi Mboula has a better chance than most to emulate the Argentinian superstar.
The 18-year-old is currently playing for Barcelona’s Juvenil A team as well as Spain’s Under-19’s where he has scored 2 goals in 4 games.
Similarly to Messi, he plays on the right wing using his excellent dribbling skills to beat players as if they aren’t there. His goal against Dortmund in the UEFA Youth League was compared to Messi’s famous effort against Getafe, and if you haven’t seen it, then it is worth seeking out. Whether he will reach Messi’s level is anyone’s guess, but he has all the raw talent to be something very special.
Matthijs de Ligt. The Next Vertonghen
De Ligt, currently playing for Ajax, is a superb central defender and at only 17-years-old has already played for the Dutch senior side being used in a crucial World Cup qualifier against Bulgaria.
Despite his tender age he has already played 13 senior games for Ajax including in their Europa League Semi-Final against Lyon last Wednesday.
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The Dutchman has been compared to Spurs defender Jan Vertonghen owing to his good use of the ball, his ability to push up into midfield and his great strength both in the air and in physical battles.
After Ajax’s 4-1 win over Lyon, a place in the Europa League final looks likely, and that gives De Ligt the chance to prove himself on one of Europe’s biggest stages. Expect to see him continuing to hone his skills for Ajax before moving on to one of Europe’s biggest clubs.