Top Five Possible Cristiano Ronaldo Replacements: Top Talents Who Could Try to fill Real Madrid Star's Boots
Becoming a legend at any football club is no mean feat, but doing so at Real Madrid, arguably the biggest club in the world requires a special kind of player. Cristiano Ronaldo is possibly the greatest player in their history, becoming the defining figure in Los Blancos’ modern era, certainly in an individual sense.
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Alfredo Di Stefano helped Real win five European Cups in the 1950s and 1960s, and Ronaldo has become something of his modern equivalent, leading the club to two Champions League titles in three years and a LaLiga triumph in 2012. No club has repeated the feat of the Di Stefano era and retained the European Cup in its current format. Ronaldo could be help make history by ending that wait at the Santiago Bernabeu this season.
The Portugal star has just signed a new long-term contract this season, but at 32 years of age, he may have to start slowing down soon. He is Real Madrid’s all time top scorer, with 385, and his legacy will last forever, yet a replacement will have to be found.
Here are 5 possible options for Los Blancos to consider.
1. Paulo Dybala – Juventus
Argentine youngster Dybala has developed into one of the best young players in Europe since signing for Juve from Serie A rivals Palermo in 2015.
The 23-year-old has been linked with Real Madrid in the past, which would be very detrimental to Juve’s hopes of challenging in Europe, having won every Italian title since 2012. Dybala’s close control, pace and killer instinct in front of goal make him a future world class star, if not one already.
If he were to move to the Bernabeu, he would be an ideal option to step into Ronaldo’s giant boots. Finding a player to take over from him, in the sense of coming close to his impact, would be nearly impossible and Dybala would not be a like-for-like replacement because he operates more as a central striker than a winger.
Paying big transfer fees has never been a problem for Real Madrid, but they may have to part with a huge amount if they want to lure Paulo Dybala to Spain.
2. Eden Hazard – Chelsea
Hazard is probably the most logical player on this list. At 26, he is already at the optimum age to take over from Ronaldo and he also plays in the same position. The Belgian star has had his ups and downs at Chelsea since joining from Lille in 2012, but he has shown himself to be a truly world class star at Stamford Bridge.
Winning the Premier League title in 2015 was capped off by being voted both the PFA and Football Writers’ Player of the Year. The following season was a disaster, with the Blues finishing tenth after sacking Jose Mourinho. Under new boss Antonio Conte, Chelsea are steamrolling to another title and Hazard is again at the centre of their success.
If Ronaldo does step down from his throne any time soon, Real would do a lot worse than signing the Belgium international.
3. Marco Asensio – Real Madrid
Los Blancos could take a leaf out of arch-rivals Barcelona’s book. In 2008, Pep Guardiola’s first major decision as the Blaugrana boss was to oust Brazilian superstar Ronaldinho in favour of making then 21-year-old Lionel Messi the new darling of the Camp Nou. It was a decision that turned out to be a stroke of genius.
Now, there are a couple of major differences between the situations. Ronaldo may be ageing, but he is not declining in form the way Ronaldinho was. His poor performances were the catalyst for a terrible season at Barcelona in 2007/08.
The other thing is, Marco Asensio, someone who could be worth promoting from within, has not made anywhere near the sort of impact Messi had at the same stage of his career. But Asensio, 21, is highly-rated at Madrid having impressed since arriving from Real Mallorca i.n 2014.
Like Ronaldo, though, the Spaniard is a tricky winger who can play in attacking midfield. He is one of the most talented youngsters in Europe, but perhaps doesn’t get the credit he deserves, perhaps because of Ronaldo, and the man originally brought in to support the Portuguese star, Gareth Bale.
Given an opportunity and time to develop at the highest level, Marco Asensio could well be the man to replace Ronaldo. Since Zinedine Zidane, the former B team coach, took over in January last year, youngsters have got more of a chance to shine, meaning this really could be the right time for Asensio.
4. Gabriel Jesus – Manchester City
Much like in Argentina when a player shows signs of promise and are immediately compared to Diego Maradona, Brazilian prospects are likened to the great Pele. New Manchester City star Gabriel Jesus is no different.
Since arriving at City in January, completing a £27million move from Palmeiras that was set up in the summer, the 19-year-old has been a Premier League revelation. In his three starts, he has scored three goals, but a recent metatarsal injury could put a halt to his sensational form.
The future of Sergio Aguero has been in question because of Jesus, but if he can now get back to his best, that speculation may die down. But Jesus could be one of the best players in the world one day, and despite City’s immense wealth, clubs like Real Madrid could well come calling.
Like Dybala, though, he would by no means be a direct replacement and would require a system reshuffle to get the best out of him.
5. Anthony Martial – Manchester United
When 21-year-old France international left Monaco for Manchester United 18 months ago, he did so with a new reputation. The Red Devils paid an initial £36million to lure him to Old Trafford, making him the most expensive teenager in football history.
His initial form was befitting of that, showing his ability as both a striker and a winger while helping Louis van Gaal’s side lift the FA Cup in his debut season.
Since Jose Mourinho took over as boss, though, Martial has struggled to get going. His severe dip in form has called his future at United into question, but he remains one of Europe’s most exciting prospects.
Signing Martial would mean Real would have to offer him time to resurrect his career, but he has shown he can handle the pressure of playing for one of the world’s biggest clubs. He will be world class one day and well worth any risk.