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What happened to the six players Cristiano Ronaldo tipped to become world's best, six years on

Alex Brotherton

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What happened to the six players Cristiano Ronaldo tipped to become world's best, six years on

Cristiano Ronaldo once predicted who would succeed him as the best player in the world, although not all of his picks lived up to his expectations.

Ronaldo is no longer the best player on the planet, but back in 2017 he was on top of the world.

The Portuguese forward helped Real Madrid to complete a La Liga and Champions League double in 2016/17, while that calendar year he scored 53 goals in all competitions.

On the individual awards front, Ronaldo completed a clean sweep with the Ballon d'Or, FIFA's The Best award and the UEFA Player of the Year award.

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After scooping the latter in August 2017, Ronaldo was asked which players he thought might one day surpass him as the world's best player.

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Six years ago he said: "In the next generation there are at least 10 players with very, very great potential."

So, how did those players get on?

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Marco Asensio

In hindsight, it seems a little generous of Ronaldo to place Asensio in that top bracket, but at the time his then-21-year-old teammate really looked like he was going places.

The Spanish winger became the fourth youngest player to score in a Champions League final when he netted against Juventus in 2017, but since then he has failed to properly establish himself as a top talent.

After his contract expired in June, Asensio joined Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer.

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Kylian Mbappe

That's more like it. As Ronaldo predicted, Mbappe has been one of the best players on the planet pretty much since he burst onto the scene as a teenager at Monaco in 2016/17.

In the summer of 2017 he moved to Paris Saint-Germain and hasn't stopped scoring since.

He's even done it on the international stage, too. Not content with firing France to World Cup glory in 2018 as a 19-year-old, he came within a whisker of repeating the trick in 2022.

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Image credit: Getty
Image credit: Getty

Neymar

Ronaldo highlighted Mbappe's PSG teammate Neymar, but it's hard to argue that the Brazilian has reached the same heights.

The tricky attacker was the original heir to Ronaldo - and Lionel Messi's - throne, but in the last few years has appeared to lose his way a bit.

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Controversy has followed Neymar around like a bad smell, and now 31, he currently plays in the Saudi Pro League for Al Hilal.

Ousmane Dembele

Dembele was tearing up trees at Borussia Dortmund in 2017, so much so that Barcelona signed him for £135 million.

The French winger has not consistently hit the heights since though, with injuries haunting him since he moved to Spain.

He's enjoyed a mini-revival of late and like Asensio, he currently plays for Ligue 1 side Paris Saint-Germain

Eden Hazard

Hazard was arguably the best player in the world in 2018, but when he moved to Real Madrid in 2019 to replace Ronaldo, everything fell apart.

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

He announced his retirement from professional football in October at the age of 32.

Eden Hazard signed for Real Madrid from Chelsea for a reported £88.3m. Credit: Getty
Eden Hazard signed for Real Madrid from Chelsea for a reported £88.3m. Credit: Getty

Marcus Rashford

Like Dembele and Mbappe, Rashford made waves when he started terrorising defences as a teenager, but in recent years he has struggled with injuries and form.

The England international rediscovered his scoring touch last season though and, despite starting this campaign slowly, Rashford remains one of Manchester United's biggest assets.

Featured Image Credit: PA/Alamy

Topics: Cristiano Ronaldo, Marcus Rashford, Eden Hazard, Manchester United, Ousmane Dembele, Marco Asensio, Real Madrid

Alex Brotherton
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