What happened to the six players Ronaldo tipped to become world’s best back in 2017

Cristiano Ronaldo once made predictions about who would succeed him as the best player in the world, but not all of his choices turned out as expected.

There’s always a debate about who the top footballer in the world is, but in 2017, Ronaldo was the undisputed answer.

During the 2016-17 season, Ronaldo played a crucial role in helping Real Madrid secure both the La Liga and Champions League titles.

In 2017, the Portuguese star scored 53 goals across all competitions and won the Ballon d’Or, FIFA’s The Best award, and the UEFA Player of the Year award.

After winning the latter in August 2017, Ronaldo was asked which players he believed might one day surpass him as the world’s best.

He answered: “In the next generation there are at least 10 players with very, very great potential.”

Marco Asensio

In retrospect, Ronaldo’s inclusion of Asensio in the top tier may have been overly optimistic. At the time, the then-21-year-old Madrid teammate seemed highly promising.

The Spanish winger became the fourth youngest player to score in a Champions League final with his goal against Juventus in 2017. However, he hasn’t firmly established himself as a top talent since then.

After his contract ended in June, Asensio signed with Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer. He was unexpectedly left out of Spain’s Euro 2024 squad.

Kylian Mbappe

This prediction hit the mark. As Ronaldo foresaw, Mbappe has been one of the world’s top players since he emerged as a teenager at Monaco in 2016/17.

In the summer of 2017, he moved to Paris Saint-Germain and has been a prolific scorer ever since.

He has also excelled on the international stage. Mbappe led France to World Cup victory in 2018 at the age of 19 and nearly repeated the feat in 2022.

After Euro 2024, Mbappe will focus on his first season at Real Madrid, following his departure from PSG.

Neymar

Ronaldo mentioned Neymar, but it’s debatable whether the Brazilian star has reached the same heights.

Neymar was once seen as the successor to Ronaldo and Messi, but his career has faltered in recent years.

Controversy has often surrounded Neymar, and now at 31, he plays in the Saudi Pro League for Al Hilal.

He missed Brazil’s 2024 Copa America campaign due to an ACL injury suffered last autumn.

Ousmane Dembele

Dembele was a standout at Borussia Dortmund in 2017, leading to a £135 million transfer to Barcelona.

However, injuries have plagued the French winger since his move to Spain, preventing him from consistently performing at a high level.

Recently, he has experienced a resurgence and, like Asensio, now plays for Ligue 1’s Paris Saint-Germain.

Unfortunately, the 27-year-old made little impact for France at Euro 2024.

Eden Hazard

In 2018, Hazard was arguably the best player in the world, dazzling Premier League defenses with Chelsea and leading Belgium to the World Cup semi-finals.

However, his move to Real Madrid in 2019 to replace Ronaldo was disastrous.

Injuries and poor form limited the Belgian winger to just 54 appearances in four years at the Bernabeu, marking him as one of the biggest transfer flops in recent history.

Hazard retired from professional football in October at the age of 32.

Marcus Rashford

Like Dembele and Mbappe, Rashford made a significant impact as a teenager but has struggled with injuries and form in recent years.

The England international regained his scoring touch in the 2022-23 season, but a poor 2023-24 campaign led to his omission from England’s Euro 2024 squad.

JB

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