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What happens to the world of football after Messi and Ronaldo retire?

As with all good things, the greatest footballing rivalry of all time will also come to an end one day - what happens then?

BARCELONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 03:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona conducts the ball next to Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid CF during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF at Camp Nou stadium on December 3, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)
The greatest of all-time

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have defined an era of football between them. For the past 10 years, the honour of best footballer in the world award a Messi-Ronaldo faceoff, with other footballers simply attending the party out of courtesy and to pose for photographs. For younger fans, football without Messi and Ronaldo feels quite strange – as if such a time has never existed, and never will.

When we talk about them a few years later, it will not be about a dazzling display from the previous night, but a fond reminiscence of the sheer pride and honour of having witnessed the greatest football rivalry of all time with our own eyes.

Yes, Messi and Ronaldo will retire, leaving a void that will never be replaced by anything like it.

But what will happen to football then? What happens to the world of football when Messi and Ronaldo retire? We examine what football would look like:


#1 Neymar would ascend the throne as the best player in the world

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - MARCH 28: Neymar of Brazil looks on during a match between Brazil and Paraguay as part of 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Qualifier at Arena Corinthians on March 28, 2017 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
Could Neymar be the next football great?

When Neymar stepped up to take a free-kick in the 87th minute against PSG at Camp Nou, several fans had consigned to defeat; 3 goals in the space of 5 or 6 minutes was deemed improbable, if not impossible.

A free kick, a penalty and an assist later, Neymar would go down in history as the architect of the greatest Champions League comeback of all time. Derided in several quarters for his tendency to dive and showboat, the Brazilian nonetheless remains the most likely contender to inherit the throne of the best player in the world.

Other notable names in the mix include Antoine Griezmann, Gareth Bale, and Pogba, or, if you were to step down one generation further, Ousmane Dembele, Kylian Mbappe, and Gabriel Jesus. But as it stands, if you were to put your money on it, one would most certainly back Neymar – amidst all the nostalgia of missing Messi and Ronaldo, one can't help but wonder when Neymar will finally seize the coveted Ballon d'Or from the formidable duo.

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