Every soccer fan remembers and loves the greats of their generation. For some it’s Diego Maradona – leading Argentina to the 1986 World Cup and Napoli to their first ever title that same year. But ask anyone younger than 40 and there’s no comparison – Lionel Messi rules the roost.
In many respects Messi is the successor to the Maradona throne. Both diminutive number 10s played for Barcelona and captained Argentina. Yet the couple of decades that separate each other’s careers are important because the two never followed each other’s paths directly. They each had to step in to fill a void left by other players on a domestic and international level.
These arguments don’t always boil down to pure statistics because they can be used to back up any opinion. Then again, the fans are the voice of the game and when the jury comes back to reach a verdict, it’s often unanimous.
Many of the great club sides around the world have legends from the black and white television era that lift the standard. So when someone like Peter Crouch leads the line for Liverpool or Fabien Barthez goes between the sticks for Manchester United, those in the grandstands know it’s only a matter of time before they get a serious upgrade.
Then there are the legends that emerge from out of nowhere. Real Madrid thought they never had it so good when Raul was scoring goals for fun, likewise Arsenal with Ian Wright. Then Cristiano Ronaldo and Thierry Henry come along to blow their achievements out of the water.
Supporters remember those that set the standard. They win the personal awards and have their faces on bronze statues. These are the top 15 soccer players who surpassed their predecessors.
16 Ruud van Nistelrooy / Dwight Yorke
15 Vincent Kompany / Richard Dunne
14 Javier Mascherano / Dietmar Hamann
12 Clint Dempsey / Brian McBride
11 Didier Drogba / Eidur Gudjohnsen
10 Alexis Sanchez / Andrey Arshavin
9 Yaya Toure / Joey Barton
8 Fernando Torres / Peter Crouch
7 Petr Cech / Carlo Cudicini
6 Diego Maradona / Oscar Damiani
5 Edwin van der Sar / Fabien Barthez
4 Ronaldo / Romario
3 Thierry Henry / Ian Wright
2 Cristiano Ronaldo / Raul
1 Leo Messi / Ronaldinho
Fortunately for Barcelona they didn’t have to look too far to find the successor to Brazilian legend Ronaldinho – he was waiting in their backyard! The aging playmaker had all the flair in the world during his 5 years in Spain, scoring 70 goals in 145 games and became the best player on the planet in the process. During the transition, young Argentine Lionel Messi stepped in and started becoming a bigger influence as each season passed. When Ronaldinho left, Messi was the man. 295 goals in 328 games later and there is no question that he’s the man at Barcelona. If anyone passes his record in the future, we hope we’re alive long enough to see it!
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