Kylian Mbappé celebrates PSG's opening goal on Tuesday. / AFP

Next-gen dominators

Kylian Mbappé and Erling Haaland are set to be football's main men for the next decade

Rob Palmer
ROB PALMER

It's becoming quite apparent that it's the "end of an era" for one age of footballing superstars and the beginning of a decade of domination from Kylian Mbappé and Erling Haaland.

I've been lucky to commentate on the stratospheric careers of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo from day one. Sadly, we are now in the late autumn of both of their incredible careers.

Some blinkered fans engage in pointless arguments about which of the two is the GOAT, an acronym for the "Greatest Of All Time". The truth is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and your bias will depend on whether you support Barcelona or Real Madrid.

We have been fortunate to be able to marvel at their unique talents on a weekly basis as they have vied for Liga titles, Champions League trophies and the annual Ballon d'Or award, which they dominated from 2008 to 2020.

It was sad to see Ronaldo's representatives tout him to Europe's top clubs this summer without any takers. The 37-year-old is having to come to terms with the fact that he's now a bit-part player rather than the box-office attraction.

His great rival, Messi, is ageing more gracefully and appears to have accepted a less dominant role as a kingmaker at PSG.

This week I commentated on his Champions League role as co-star to Mbappé. The man who won the World Cup with France as a teenager was in sensational form as he humbled Juventus with two stunning goals; he's now scored nine is his first six games of the season. The Champions League trophy is firmly in his sights.

I was even luckier to see his rival for the domination of the next generation with my own eyes in the same week. Haaland is something special. Back-to-back Premier League hat-tricks and 12 goals in his first eight games for Manchester City back this up statistically. When you see him in the flesh, his gigantic stature hits you.

Both epitomise the new era and are striking athletes. Haaland was a long-jumper in his youth and has the genes of his father, an international footballer. Mbappé's father also played football and the star's mother was a handball player. You get the impression that both would excel at any sport.

The only downside is the fact that neither struts his stuff in La Liga - just yet! Mbappé flirted with Real Madrid but broke their hearts. This week he caused a stir when asked about Madrid: "I've never been there but it feels like my home or something."

Haaland is also leaving the door open to a future in Spanish football by negotiating a €150-million release clause at Manchester City. When he visited the Camp Nou for last month's charity match, the Barcelona fans gave him a rapturous reception. This could be just a taste of what he could expect when he decides to move on.