Two of the biggest players in the soccer players in the world are Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. It’s hard to imagine any other athletes that will reach that level of calibre. Will England ever produce a player of Ronaldo or Messi’s level of calibre? It’s hard to say exactly — and while this article is purely speculative (Messi, for example, has never actually played in the Premier League), we’ll explore their careers and make a prediction.

Ronaldo’s long journey to the top

Cristiano Ronaldo’s life began in Santo Antonio, a neighbourhood in Madeira. The youngest of four children — two boys, two girls — his childhood was seeped in football. He began his senior club career playing for Sporting CP. He made his big leap in professional soccer by signing to Manchester United at aged 18 back in 2003. He quickly made his mark, winning the FA Cup during his first season added by helping United win three Premier League titles in a row, the FIFA World Cup and the UEFA Champions League.

He made more news in 2009 having been the then most expensive association football transfer in a transfer to Real Madrid in 2009. He became the club’s top goalscorer of all time. He was ranked one of the world’s highest paid athlete by Forbes in both 2016 and 2017 as well as the most famous athlete of all time from 2016-2019 by ESPN. He was the first footballer to earn an astonishing $1 billion in their career. His performance at his current club, Juventus, has been simply astonishing. He has broken numerous club records, including most goals scored for Juventus in a season and quickest player to reach 50 goals in Serie A, amongst other huge achievements. The fact that he is still breaking records such as this at the age of 35 is simply astonishing and his presence alone makes Juventus one of the favourites to win the league this year. Punters who are betting with 888sports will be able to see this reality reflected in the odds, priced at 3.25/1 at the time this article was written.

The story of Messi

With his career starting as far back as 1995 at Newell’s old Boys, at the age of 13 he crossed the Atlantic to join Barcelona. He made his first team debut at the age of only 16 during the 2003-2004 season. Following his first appearance in an official match in 2004, he became a regular feature at Barca, with a breakthrough in the 2005-2006 season with an amazing performance in a match against Juventus.

Messi became the main star of the Barca squad during the 2008-2009 season, where they claimed the treble and Messi scored in both the Copa del Rey and Champions League Finals. His success continued up until the league title of 2019, which saw him become one of the most decorated footballers in the history of football, especially for FC Barcelona with a total of 34 trophies. He’s broken numerous records throughout his career and as one of the most famous athletes in the world, has been sponsored by Adidas since 2006. He was the world’s highest paid footballer for five years out of six during 2009 through to 2014. He was also ranked the world’s highest-paid athlete in 2019 by Forbes.

Comparisons between the players

Both Messi and Ronaldo are often compared and contrasted for their skill sets, with fans and pundits regularly commenting on both players. They also have quite different physique’s as well as Messi’s humility versus Ronaldo’s theatrical and self-confident nature. They are direct competitors off the pitch too, in terms of sponsorships, social media fanbases and salaries.

So where will the new Messi and Ronaldo potentials be built in England? Here are our top 5 football academies.

Southampton

One of the top places for homegrown talent in England, many a player from this academy has hit the Premier League after having spent some time at Southampton. They have very high transfer fees which allows more funding to be pumped through the academy. Some of the big star players from the Southampton academy include Gareth Bale, Matt Le Tissier, Luke Shaw, Theo Walcott, Wayne Bridge and Matt Le Tissier.

Manchester United

It’s a world-renowned youth program — so famous that there was a documentary made about it back in 2013. With players like Marcus Rashford, Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Ryan Giggs, Ryan Shawcross and John O’Shea having all gone through the academy, it’s easy to see how it’s gotten its incredible reputation over the years for producing star players.

Liverpool

Liverpool have always produced some incredible players. The city itself has a major footballing history with two of the club’s greatest players having spent their whole careers there. Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard learnt everything they knew at the club and continued on. Some of their other star players have included Raheem Stirling, Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen, Steve McManaman and Paul Ince. A legendary bunch for the Premier League champions.

Everton

Everton has produced several talented players from their academy. Coming from a city with such a renowned soccer history it makes sense why. Many of their greatest stars were literally born there too. Players having come through the academy include the likes of Tom Davies, Ross Barkley, Francis Jeffers, Richard Dunne, Jack Rodwell, Victor Anichebe and more.

Aston Villa

An incredible amount of England international players has come through Villa. Some examples include Gareth Barry, Gary Cahill, Craig Gardner, Peter Whittingham, Jack Grealish and Gabriel Agbonlahor, just to name a few of the best.

Only time will tell if England will produce the next hyper-legend football star. However, there is one thing we can say for certain: England has the potential, the capabilities and the facilities to do so.

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