Lionel Messi: The 17 players tipped to be the 'new Messi' - where are they now?

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi is arguably the greatest player of all time.

The Argentine has dominated football ever since his Barcelona debut in October 2004.

The sport will be a strange place without him.

Who could possibly replace Messi?

The answer is nobody. However because we’re all desperate for Messi to stay in our lives forever, fans have often dubbed talented youngsters as ‘the next Messi.’

But being given such a label comes with huge amount of pressure and many crumble under that.

So, what has happened to those players touted to follow in Messi’s footsteps?

Well, last year, Twitter user @CheGiaevara created a brilliant thread looking at the 17 players tipped to be the next Messi. But what has happened to them since? Let’s take a look:

Bojan | Vissel Kobe

Bojan actually broke Messi’s record of being the youngest player to play for Barcelona. He had spells at Roma, Milan and Stoke but is now in Japan at the age of 31.

Gai Assulin | Free Agent (The Israeli Messi)

Assulin also came through La Masia at Barcelona but didn’t get many first-team opportunities at Camp Nou or Manchester City, who he joined afterwards. He was last seen playing in Serie D – Italy’s fourth tier with Crema. He’s now 31 and without a club.

Alen Halilovic | Reading (The Croatian Messi)

Signed by Barcelona from Dinamo Zagreb, Halilovic was destined for greatness. It didn’t work out and now, aged just 25, he’s at Reading in the Championship having played for Birmingham previously.

Alen Halilovic

Iker Muniain | Athletic Bilbao (The Basque Messi)

One of the most successful players in this list having played his entire career at Bilbao – the club he now captains. Now 29, Muniain may not have emulated Messi but he’s had a great spell at his boyhood club.

Humam Tariq | Al-Ahly SC (The Iraqi Messi)

Still only 26, Tariq has been capped 74 times by Iraq which shows his standing in his own country. Will he ever make the move to Europe?

Ryan Gauld | Vancouver Whitecaps (The Scottish Messi)

Gauld was linked with big moves when he was at Dundee United but opted to join Sporting in Portugal. It didn’t quite work out and the 26-year-old is now playing in the MLS.

Ryan Gauld

Ryo Miyaichi | Yokohama F. Marinos (The Japanese Messi)

Miyaichi was highly-rated but was unable to force a way into Arsenal’s first team before a move to Wigan. At the age of 29, he’s now back in his native country having been capped just twice for Japan.

Takefusa Kubo | Real Madrid (The Japanese Messi)

Kubo is still only 21 and has spent the last few seasons on loan in La Liga, proving he’s capable of playing in Spain’s top tier with the likes of Mallorca, Villarreal and Getafe. Whether he’s got a long-term future at Real Madrid remains to be seen.

Lee Seung-woo | Suwon FC (The Korean Messi)

Seung-woo signed for Barcelona as a 12-year-old and scored 39 goals in 29 appearances during his first season at La Masia. But he couldn’t force his way into the first team and now, at the age of 24, is back playing in South Korea.

Lee Seung-woo

Mohamed Salah | Liverpool (The Egyptian Messi)

At times last season, many believed Salah was the best player in the world – even better than Messi. Of course, his career as a whole can’t be compared to Messi’s.

Christian Atsu | Al-Raed (The African Messi)

Atsu was at Chelsea from 2013-2017 but failed to play for the first-team. He’s now in Saudi Arabia at the age of 30 after a spell at Newcastle.

Marko Marin | Free agent (The German Messi)

Another player who failed to make an impact at Chelsea during four years at the club. Marin was capped 16 times by Germany but was last seen playing for Ferencváros in Hungary.

Marko Marin

Xherdan Shaqiri | Chicago Fire (The Alpine Messi)

Shaqiri had incredible technical ability and can say he won trophies at Bayern Munich and Liverpool during his career. But he’s never been consistent – or fit enough – to be considered one of the best players in Europe. He’s now in the MLS with Chicago Fire at the age of 30.

Sardar Azmoun | Bayer Leverkusen (The Iranian Messi)

Azmoun signed for Bayer Leverkusen from Zenit Saint Petersburg in January and scored once in the Bundesliga this season. For his country, the striker has an impressive 40 goals in 62 appearances.

Martin Odegaard | Arsenal (The Norweigen Messi)

Odegaard made headlines when he signed for Real Madrid at the age of 15. Eight years later, he’s now captain of Norway and had a brilliant season for Arsenal.

Martin Odegaard

Gerard Deulofeu | Udinese

Deulofeu didn’t get too many opportunities at Barcelona but impressed during a loan – and then permanent move – to Everton. He returned to the Camp Nou for a season before heading back to England with Watford. In 2020, he moved to another club owned by the Pozzo family, Udinese where he remains at the age of 28.

Juan Iturbe | Aris

The Paraguayan did play for Porto and Roma earlier in his career but has wound up in Greece with Aris, aged 29.

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