Lionel Messi: The 25 players tipped to emulate Barcelona superstar in 2010

Lionel Messi

Go on, admit it, we’ve all tried and undoubtedly failed to predict who the next Lionel Messi was going to be.

The Argentine is one of the finest players to grace the earth, scoring over 700 career goals and winning 34 major trophies in the process.

When it comes to witnessing art on the pitch, Messi is the closest you’re going to get. 

The speed at which he plays the game is often effortless, but he paints a vivid picture with every touch he takes. 

Whether it’s dashing past the defender with dazzling skill or firing in a shot from range, Messi has it all in his locker.

He has become not just a legend of Argentine and Barcelona football, but a great of the game itself. It’s crazy to think he’s still only 33.

Despite his age, Messi continues to defy logic and in the not too distant future, we may get to see him in the Premier League. Although he stayed in Spain this summer, he’s likely to leave Barca when his contract expires next year, with Manchester City touted as his eventual destination. 

Lionel Messi

But once he retires, it will be time to welcome through the next generation of talent. Again, the next Messi will be predicted, and like those who have tried to replicate him in the past, they will probably fail. 

Back in 2010, a list of 25 names were put together as players who could become one of the best in the world and to put it simply, the vast majority shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same breath as the great attacker. 

But who makes this list exactly? Read on to find out…

1. Pablo Piatti

“With impressive dribbling skills and an eye for the goal Piatti might well follow on Messi’s path to greatness,” was how the Argentine was described a decade ago. Unfortunately, it never really happened for him. He spent the majority of his career in Spain but is now playing for Toronto in the MLS. I rest my case.

Pablo Piatti

2. Giannis Fetfatzidis

At just 5 foot 6, you can instantly see the connection between Fetfatzidis and Messi. The Greek was a wonderkid a decade ago but his career has never lived up to expectation. He has scored just 42 career goals and is now playing for Qatari side Al-Khor SC. At the age of 29, Fetfatzidis had no right to be compared to Messi. 


3. Sebastian Giovinco

Another tiny player in stature, Giovinco has become a pretty respectable name in football, certainly compared to our first two names on the list. Capped 23 times by Italy, he went onto play 132 times for Juventus after being dubbed the ‘Italian Messi’. However, after a spell in MLS, he is another now playing his football in the Middle East.

Sebastian Giovinco

4. Neymar

Well, it’s safe to say that this prediction is probably as close as they come. Neymar has enjoyed an absolutely fabulous career and starred alongside Messi at Barcelona. He’s now lighting it up in France with PSG and has become the most expensive footballer of all time. The Brazilian has scored 247 goals in just 408 outings at club level.


5. Pedro 

In the grand scheme of things, this wasn’t a bad prediction at all. Although Pedro has dwindled in recent years and lost his pace, he was one of the most underrated components of the great Barcelona team under Pep Guardiola. The Spaniard is now at Roma and has over 150 career goals. He’s also won the World Cup and multiple Champions League titles.


Pedro in action for Chelsea

6. Erik Lamela

Yep, this one is just all sorts of wrong. Lamela may have scored a truly outrageous rabona goal for Tottenham a number of years ago but that’s the closest he’s ever come to emulating Messi. The Argentine is now struggling to get in the Spurs side but has made 25 caps for his country. 

Erik Lamela

7. Nicolas Lodeiro

The nifty South American was dubbed the ‘Uruguayan Messi’ ten years ago and was touted to be a world-class player in the future. Unfortunately, that never came true. Lodeiro only ever had one stint in Europe – with Ajax – and is now playing for Seattle Sounders in the USA. 

Nicolas Lodeiro

8. Javier Pastore

Again, this wasn’t a bad shout. Pastore was described as Argentina’s next star in 2010 and having played over 200 times for PSG, he came fairly close to being recognised as an elite player. Unfortunately, his career has diminished and he’s now at Roma after playing just 25 times for Argentina. Pastore is now 31 years of age too. 

Javier Pastore

9. Sotiris Ninis

Another Greek name to appear on this list, Ninis was raved about considerably when he burst onto the scene. A player who had nice close touch control, he never came anywhere near to replicating the great Messi. His career has seen him go from Greece and Italy to Belgium and Israel. It’s fair to say he didn’t live up to the hype. 

Sotiris Ninis

10. Marko Marin

Marin was an excellent dribbler on his day and as a result, was called the ‘German Messi’. You can start to see a trend emerging here. Pick a young player from their respective nation that’s a good dribbler and label them Messi.

Again, the German failed to live up to expectations and despite earning a move to Chelsea at one stage, is now playing for Al-Ahli in Saudi Arabia. He played for Red Star Belgrade before that.

Marko Marin

11. Bryan Ruiz

What were they thinking when putting this list together? Ruiz may have been capped 125 times by Costa Rica but he has never played for a high-brow club in his entire career. The 35-year-old’s career has taken him to Fulham and PSV via Gent and now Alajuelense – a team in Costa Rica.

Bryan Ruiz

12. Philippe Coutinho

This was another pretty smart shout. Coutinho has had an excellent career and despite not becoming the next Messi, is one of the most creative players on the planet. He is back in Barcelona’s plans under Ronald Koeman following a £142m move in 2018. The Brazilian’s career has undeniably been successful. 

Coutinho scores for Barcelona

13. Frank

This is quite possibly the oddest shout yet. When Frank was put on this list in 2010, he was just 17 years of age and was seen as the next best thing to come out of African and Ghanaian football. Unsurprisingly, he has now fallen off the face of the earth. He had a trial with Manchester City when he was younger but is now playing in China after a spell at Anderlecht. 

 Frank Acheampong

14. Jose Baxter

Okay, we take it back, this is the strangest name on the list yet. When Baxter burst onto the scene at Everton it looked as though he was going to become a mainstay of the England national team. However, his career has been a difficult one to say the least.

Described as “infectious” by David Unsworth, the midfielder ended up at Oldham, Plymouth Argyle and is now playing in the second tier of US football for Memphis 901 FC. He has got nowhere near Messi. 

Jose Baxter

15. Christian Eriksen

The Dane’s career has been a pretty good one, and although he’s not as good as Messi, he has become a force to be reckoned with. Eriksen has played for Ajax, Tottenham and Inter Milan, assisting 157 goals in the process. He also has over 100 career goals. Not bad at all.

Christian Eriksen

16. Bojan Krkic

When Bojan was named on this list, he was genuinely in with a shout of becoming Barcelona’s Messi 2.0. He had excellent pace and dribbling skills, played for the Catalan giants and was back-up to Messi at the time. Unfortunately, for one reason or another, Bojan’s career didn’t go the way everyone thought it would.

The Spaniard played 163 times for Barcelona but ended up at clubs like Stoke, Mainz and Alaves. He’s another on this list to now play in the MLS – Bojan is currently at Montreal Impact.


17. Kerlon 

Remember this guy? Videos went viral of the Brazilian dribbling with the ball on his head like a seal. However, that’s all his career has amounted to. He has played for clubs in Japan, America, Malta and Slovakia, before retiring in his late 20s. He was most recently a coach in the USA. 

Kerlon Brazil U17s

18. Jean Carlos Chera

The Brazilian was named on this list at the age of just 15 – talking about hyping someone up. Once linked with Manchester United, he had amazing dribbling skills and was seen as Brazil’s answer to Messi. Chera ended up playing for clubs in Romania and Greece but ended up retiring from football very young. He is still only 25.

Jean Carlos Chera

19. Diego Buonanotte

Standing at a minute heigh of 5 foot 3, Buonanotte was another Argentine touted to become the next Messi. He is a year younger – 32 – than the Barcelona star but is now playing his football in Chile. He has never been capped his country either. 


20. Eduardo Salvio

Yet another unfortunate Argentine to be mentioned in the same breath as Messi for his style of play, his career has been somewhat successful. Although he never lived up to the heights expected, he has played for Atletico Madrid and Benfica, while being capped three times at international level. 

Eduardo Salvio

21. Alexis Sanchez

Now we’re talking. Sanchez became one of the best players in the world for a few years while playing in the Premier League and has had a quite brilliant career. The Chilean has scored 164 goals at club level and has played for some of the biggest clubs on the planet – Barcelona, Arsenal, Manchester United and Inter Milan. That’s what you call a successful career.

Alexis Sanchez

22. Reimond Manco

Described as a natural goalscorer with excellent technique in 2010, the Peruvian is another South American who came nowhere near to emulating Messi’s achievements. The winger is now 30 and has played for no fewer than 15 clubs. He had spells in Europe with PSV and Willem but has spent the vast majority of his career globetrotting. Manco has played in Peru, Mexico, Qatar and Venezuela.  

Reimond Manco

23. Nicolas Gaitan

Gaitan is one of the few players on this list to successfully make it in European football. Described as a player with “world-class technique” a decade ago, he has been capped 16 times by Argentina and has played for the likes of Benfica, Atletico, Lille and Braga. He even played in China for a season too. 

Nico Gaitan

24. James Rodriguez

Again, this was a pretty decent suggestion. James has gone onto have a wonderful career and although he now plays for Everton, has featured for some of the best clubs in the world. When this list was initially put together he was already at Porto and then he subsequently earnt moves to Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. 

James was also the top goal scorer at the 2014 World Cup and was in contention to win the tournament’s golden ball, only to be beaten by a certain Messi.

James Rodriguez

25. Matias Defederico

Aged 21 in 2010, Defaderico was described as the ‘New Messi’. Yet again, he fell off the face of the earth after playing just twice for Argentina. The forward has 12 clubs to his name and is currently playing in his homeland for Agropecuario, a team in the second division of the Argentine football pyramid.

Matias Defederico

The final name on this rather ridiculous list, he never came close to reaching Messi’s standards. What a surprise. 

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