Move over Lionel Messi. Step aside Cristiano Ronaldo. The Champions League has highlighted young stars this season like Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe.
Remember the debate about whether Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo was the best player in the world? Well, no one’s having that argument this season.
A look at the Champions League’s top scorer’s table gives you a glimpse into the phenomenon that has seen budding stars such as Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe dominate the world’s biggest club competition.
The performances of both players has triggered a debate over who is better between the two. While there is no doubt Haaland is a great striker, Mbappe is the one who has scored the biggest goals in the Champions League this season.
That makes Mbappe the frontrunner, for now, as the heir to Messi and Ronaldo.
“I think he’s an incredible, incredible footballer. He’s the rightful heir to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi’s throne, which is going to happen now or next year,” commentator and former England international Steve McManaman said following Wednesday’s quarterfinals matches. “His numbers are fantastic. I just don’t know whether he needs to leave and go to a more accomplished team, not just a team littered with a couple of stars but a really compact group of individuals to take him to the next level.”
It should be noted that Haaland currently leads the pack with 10 goals, two clear of Mbappe. The Frenchman, however, has been in the best form so far in the knockout tournament.
Mbappe tallied twice on Wednesday in Paris Saint-Germain’s 3-2 win in the quarterfinal first leg matchup against defending champions Bayern Munich.
Whether Haaland, who plays for Borussia Dortmund, or Mbappe can win the top scorer’s race in this season’s Champions League depends largely on whether the two can get their sides to the semifinals and beyond. Haaland and Mbappe would face off against one another in the semifinals should both Dortmund and PSG advance.
There are several top clubs across Europe who are looking to sign the 20 year old Haaland this summer. From Real Madrid and Barcelona to Manchester City and Chelsea, all of them are looking to sign the Norwegian international in the hope of bolstering their attacks.
Mbappe, meanwhile, may only be 22, but he’s already proven he is a superstar. A member of the French side that won the 2018 World Cup, Mbappe has yet to win the Champions League after helping the club reach last year’s final. He, too, is rumored to potentially change clubs in time for next season.
Mbappe’s stock is up. He’s setting records and turning heads with his performances. He scored three times against Barcelona in the round of 16 and added a brace this week to his overall tally.
This impressive run of form comes after Mbappe went 10 games without scoring, a streak that started in the group stage of the 2019-20 edition of the Champions League and extended through to the last group-stage game of this season.
There’s a caveat to Mbappe’s dry spell. That scoring drought took place as the knockout stage of last year’s tournament was contested in the bubble of Lisbon during much of August after the pandemic put the Champions League on pause for several months.
It should be noted that no French player has ever scored more than eight goals during a single edition of the Champions League.
Meanwhile, both Messi and Ronaldo have scored just five and four UCL goals, respectively, this season. In addition, both Barcelona and Juventus were eliminated in the round of 16.
That paves the way for new blood, like Haaland and Mbappe, to dazzle on the field and for one of them to even possibly lift the trophy come May 29 in Istanbul.