There will never be another Lionel Messi. Never. But that doesn’t stop skilful dribblers, particularly short, left-footed ones, being dubbed ‘the next Lionel Messi’.

When Messi made his Barcelona debut in 2004, he was quickly hailed as the ‘new Maradona’, a label previously given to players like Ariel Ortega, Pablo Aimar and Javier Saviola.

Only a few seasons later, the benchmark was changed: a new generation of skilful young attackers would be dubbed not the ‘new Maradona’ but the ‘new Messi’, a tag that has proven bloody hard to live up to…

2006: Bojan Krkic

Just two years into Messi’s senior career, the website Foot Mercato published an article titled ‘Bojan Krkic: le futur Messi?’.

Aged just 16 at the time, Bojan had excelled at Barcelona’s La Masia academy and would score 10 goals in 22 appearances for Barcelona B that season before graduating to the first team.

His career has since had its ups and downs. Short spells at Roma, AC Milan and Ajax were followed by a permanent move to Stoke City in 2014.

The forward enjoyed success in his first two seasons but was loaned out in both 2016-17 and 2017-18 before spending a campaign mainly on the bench as Stoke struggled in the Championship. In 2019 he signed for Montreal Impact in MLS.

2007: Gerardo Bruna

Three years after Messi’s debut, Real Madrid thought they had fostered their own version of the Argentine phenomenon: 16-year-old Gerardo Bruna.

But Bruna was quickly snapped up by Liverpool, much to the chagrin of the Spanish side.

Four years on Merseyside produced no first-team appearances, and short spells followed at Blackpool, Huesca in Spain, Tranmere, non-league side Whitehawk and Accrington Stanley.

In 2019, Bruna signed for Northern Irish outfit Derry City. At the time of writing, he has six professional career goals to his name.Continue reading

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