The former Arsenal manager says the current stars are unique talents, but he is looking forward to seeing who replaces them at the top
Arsene Wenger says Kylian Mbappe is the leading contender to replace Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of the game – but England’s new generation are hot on his heels.
With Messi now 32 and Ronaldo 35, football fans are having to come to terms with the fact that the pair can’t play on forever, and, according to the former Arsenal boss, fans had never seen a player with their gifts.
“We had never seen players like that, who can absolutely be creative in any tight situation,” Wenger told TalkSPORT . “These players are now getting towards the end [of their career] – Ronaldo, Messi – but it’s now about the next generation.
“The next generation is maybe French. At the moment, the leading player could be Mbappe, of course Neymar, that we know, but England as well.
“England has a good chance now; they are doing very well at youth level. They have done well with Gareth Southgate at the World Cup. I was hoping that at the European Championship, they could be one of the contenders.”
With the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Marcus Rashford hitting top form for their clubs and a seemingly never-ending array of talents like Jadon Sancho, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Phil Foden and Reece James working their way into Southgate’s plans, the Three Lions seem well set for the years ahead.
Many had tipped them for success at this summer’s European Championships, and they could arguably benefit from the extra year’s development afforded them by the tournament’s postponement until 2021.
For now, Mbappe seems the most likely player to take the crown from Messi and Ronaldo. He finished sixth at last year’s Ballon d’Or awards, behind the usual pair and the Liverpool trio of Virgil van Dijk, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah.
After playing an inspiring role in France’s 2018 World Cup victory, Mbappe has already scaled international heights which Messi and Ronaldo haven’t been able to reach.
Now, he has the unenviable challenge of carving out a similarly impressive club career – a challenge which fuels speculation linking him with a move to Ronaldo’s former home of Real Madrid.