The conversation about the best footballers in Europe is one that’s always in flux. While Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have ruled not just Europe but the entire world of football for essentially a decade, the stars that surround them have come and gone. And now, both Ronaldo and Messi are moving toward the twilights of their careers, opening the door for more players in the best-of-Europe conversation.
So which players are on top? Which footballers can truly lay claim to being among the best handful on a continent overflowing with talent in the sport?
Ronaldo & Messi
Yes, as stated, they may both be past their peaks and headed for their twilights. But Ronaldo and Messi may still be the most popular picks in any conversation about the most talented footballers, or the players you’d choose first in a match for your life. They’re simply that good, such that even if they clearly won’t own the next decade in European football, they still may own the next year or two, for the most part.
Luka Modric also certainly won’t own the next decade, but he’s risen to the top of the continent for now. The creative and incredibly hard-working midfielder led Croatia all the way to the World Cup Final en route to winning the Ballon d’Or, to which he responded by saying he was glad someone “normal” could win. That does speak to his magic a little bit, and it’s not unlike Messi’s. Modric looks like an ordinary guy, but plays football with rare talent and once-in-a-generation work ethic and instincts.
Kylian Mbappé & Teammates
Modric may have been the World Cup’s best player, but Kylian Mbappé was its most exciting, and a World Cup champion before the age of 20. The French national and PSG forward looks to be a spiritual successor to the likes of Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Luis Suarez, not in that he’s exactly similar to any of them, but simply in that he might be that devastating a scoring threat. Mbappé has a chance to be the best player in the world in a matter of years, though he won’t be alone on either of his teams among the next lords of European football. Fellow PSG forward Neymar is still in this conversation, and 27-year-old French forward Antoine Griezmann (who plays for Atlético Madrid) has some extremely good years ahead as well.
All you need to do is look at how Liverpool is being projected lately to get an idea for the sustained impact Mohamed Salah has had after his incredible 2017/18 breakthrough. The outlook on football from betting firms and odds sites have lately been very generous to Liverpool, projecting them not just as one of the Premier League contenders but as one of the best clubs in Europe. There are other star players at Anfield, such as Sadio Mané, and manager Jurgen Klopp deserves credit as well. But that Liverpool has jumped to this level is due largely to Salah becoming one of the world’s best.
Kevin de Bruyne & Sergio Aguero
Joining Liverpool atop the Premier League is Manchester City, and many people would still give them the edge as the best club in England. Sergio Aguero remains Man City’s flashiest player, deadliest scorer, and perhaps the most famous person on the team. Kevin de Bruyne also needs to be mentioned here, however. The 27-year-old Belgian midfielder has truly come to represent the class of his position, and could be the best midfielder on the European continent once Modric declines.
Chelsea is still in the mix in the Premier League, and Eden Hazard is still one of the top scorers in English football, and all of Europe. The Belgian striker doesn’t always get quite as much attention as some of his counterparts, but he’s proven to be capable of keeping himself consistently among the most effective offensive weapons in the sport. Six years younger than Ronaldo and three younger than Messi, he’ll be a clearer pick as one of the best forwards in Europe within another year or two.
Harry Kane has been injured of late, but he’s still among the top five in scoring in the Premier League, and he’s still only 25 years old. English fans are undoubtedly excited for their next generation of stars, led by Marcus Rashford and Dele Alli, but right now Kane is the best player in the country, and one of the most reliable scoring talents on the continent. He rounds out this list, and beyond him we’d begetting into a second tier of stars or speculative talk about the next generation.