Cristiano Ronaldo: What happened to the 5 players he tipped for greatness in 2015?

Cristiano Ronaldo frustrated

Five-time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the greatest players to ever lace up a pair of boots.

Boasting an incredible legacy that only his eternal rival Lionel Messi can claim to match, the Portuguese superstar continues to operate at the highest level long after many of his peers of a similar age have retired.

His own future may be very much up in the air, but there’s no denying that Ronaldo’s haul of 24 goals in all competitions for Manchester United last season was a seriously impressive accomplishment for a 37-year-old veteran.

At this point, it’s pretty doubtful that we’ll ever see another player match Ronaldo’s outstanding legacy, but that’s never stopped fans and pundits alike from speculating as to who could be the heir to his throne.

Back in 2015, the man himself was asked to name the players of the time that he believed had the best chance of going on to achieve greatness in the game.

Seven years have passed since Ronaldo made his predictions and it’s fair to say they’ve been a mixed bag – although none have ever threatened to outshine the Man Utd icon.

Cristiano Ronaldo quiz: How well do you remember his first season back at Man Utd?

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Cristiano Ronaldo re-joined Man United in 2021

Before signing for Man United, Ronaldo was believed to be close to joining which team?

“You see many players with potential,” admitted Ronaldo, per The Mirror.

“I will mention Martin Odegaard of [Real] Madrid, for example. At 16, he’s still young but you can see he’s a very good player.

“[Eden] Hazard is also another example, the number seven of Manchester United, Memphis Depay is a good player too, Paul Pogba and maybe Neymar.”

Let’s now take a look at how each of Ronaldo’s picks are getting on in 2022.

The five players who Cristiano Ronaldo backed for stardom in 2015 – Where are they now?

Martin Odegaard (Arsenal)

The youngest of the quintet singled out for greatness by Ronaldo, 23-year-old Odegaard is arguably the only pick to be in a stronger position now than when the interview was conducted.

Having impressed at the Emirates while on loan in the second half of the 2020/21 season, the Norway captain made his switch from the Bernabeu permanent last summer.

Since then, Odegaard has become a vital cog in the Gunners’ line-up, with the attacking midfielder starring for Mikel Arteta as Arsenal narrowly missed out on qualification for this season’s Champions League.

Following the departure of previous skipper Alexandre Lacazette at the end of the 2021/22 campaign, Odegaard was rewarded for his impact at the club by being handed the captain’s armband.

Still with at least a decade to leave his mark on the game, Odegaard’s career is definitely heading in the right direction.

Martin Odegaard
ORLANDO, FLORIDA – JULY 23: Martin Ødegaard #8 of Arsenal acknowledges the fans following the Florida Cup match against Chelsea at Camping World Stadium on July 23, 2022 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Eden Hazard (Real Madrid)

After a sensational 2018/19 season with Chelsea, Belgian winger Hazard earned a Ballon d’Or nomination and looked to have every chance of justifying Ronaldo’s confidence.

A £103.5 million move to Real Madrid followed in June 2019 and the sky seemed to be the limit for Hazard.

However, having been bitten badly by the injury bug, the now-31-year-old has made just 66 appearances across all competitions in his three seasons with Los Blancos.

A tale of what might have been.

Hazard struggling at Real Madrid
MADRID, SPAIN – SEPTEMBER 28: Eden Hazard of Real Madrid looks dejected during the UEFA Champions League group D match between Real Madrid and FC Sheriff at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on September 28, 2021 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

Memphis Depay (Barcelona)

Ronaldo made his predictions just as Dutch forward Depay was beginning his career at Man United. Unfortunately, his time at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ wasn’t the roaring success that both parties had hoped for.

Lasting a little over 18 months with the 13-time Premier League champions, Depay made just 53 appearances for the club, scoring just seven goals.

A fruitful five-season spell at Lyon saw Depay breathe new life into his career, ultimately leading to a June 2021 switch to Barcelona.

La Blaugrana’s substantial recruitment drive this summer, however, means that the player is likely to struggle for first-team opportunities moving forward.

Reports suggest Barca are willing to listen to offers for the 28-year-old following the arrivals of Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha at Camp Nou.

Memphis Depay at Barcelona
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – JULY 23: Lucas Vázquez #17 of Real Madrid throws Memphis Depay #9 of Barcelona down during their preseason friendly match at Allegiant Stadium on July 23, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Vázquez received a yellow card on the play. Barcelona defeated Real Madrid 1-0. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Paul Pogba (Juventus)

When Ronaldo gave his 2015 interview, Pogba was a Juventus player. Fast forward seven years and the French midfielder is back in Turin.

For six of those years, Pogba was a Man United player after his £94.5m return to the Red Devils. Despite showing occasional glimpses of brilliance, Pogba never really looked worth that vast outlay as he frustrated the Old Trafford faithful with season after season of inconsistent performances.

His time at United was summed up by the fact that he spent his final weeks with the club on the sidelines due to a calf injury.

Things haven’t started any better for Pogba on the fitness front since he rejoined Juve on a free transfer this summer. A problem with his right meniscus has already ruled him out of the start of the Serie A season and he could even miss this winter’s World Cup with France.

Pogba in action for Juventus
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – JULY 22: Paul Pogba #10 of Juventus and Pável Pérez #6 of Chivas vie for the ball during their preseason friendly match at Allegiant Stadium on July 22, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Juventus defeated Chivas 2-0. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain)

In terms of Ballon d’Or success, Neymar can boast two third-placed finishes (in 2015 and 2017), which is the closest that any of Ronaldo’s ‘chosen five’ have come to the prized award.

At various points, the Brazilian winger has been among the best players on the planet. During his time with Barcelona he was simply electric and he’s shown occasional flashes of that form since joining PSG for a world record £199.8m fee in August 2017.

That the Ligue 1 giants would seemingly be happy to part company with the 30-year-old (and his colossal wages) is a testament to the fact that his best days are now behind him – having never genuinely lived up to his massive potential.

Neymar celebrates a PSG goal
TEL AVIV, ISRAEL – JULY 31: Paris Saint-Germain’s Jr Neymar celebrates after scoring fourth goal during the Champions Trophy at Bloomfield Stadium on July 31, 2022 in Tel Aviv, Israel. (Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images)

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