Mo Salah, not Eden Hazard, should be Real Madrid's Ronaldo successor
After Real Madrid’s unprecedented Champions Leagues success, last term, something had to give. Zinedine Zidane knew it was time to move on. So did the club’s talisman, the one and only Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Portuguese dropped the bombshell of his impending move from the Spanish giants while still celebrating the Champions League win. After weeks of speculation, he finally left for Juventus. Replacing the manager was easy, but no team can replace a five-time Ballon d'Or winner and the reigning best footballer in the world with the snap of a finger.
Players in the mould of Ronaldo and Lionel Messi come once, in this case, twice in a generation. It takes a ridiculously special player to replace one The club is reportedly chasing Chelsea's Eden Hazard to fill the void. But is the Belgian at that level?
No doubt, Hazard is a special player. He has been Chelsea's best for several seasons. He emerged as PFA Player of the Year in 2015 when he was the star man in a José Mourinho Chelsea team that won the Premier League title in style. He was also instrumental to the club lifting the trophy again two years later, this time under Antonio Conte.
Being the starman in Chelsea is one thing. Taking on that role at the most successful club in world football is another. Moreover, stepping into a five-time Ballon d'Or winner's shoes and performing at the same level will require much more.
Cristiano Ronaldo built a reputation in Madrid by scoring more than 40 goals in a season, every season. Such has been his ruthlessness that he has consistently smashed records playing for the club. He is the Merengue's all-time scorer and the Champions League's, too.
After winning his first Champions League trophy and the Ballon d'Or with Manchester United in England, he forced a big money move to the Santiago Bernabeu to become the Galactico to end all Galacticos. And 'end all' is Hazard's problem.
Ronaldo took his game to the next level with consistent performances that yielded trophies and awards aplenty. After a third consecutive UCL win, no one can blame him for seeking a new challenge.
Hazard has not shown he can perform at Ronaldo's level despite his success in England. For one thing, his goal ratio is significantly less than that of the Portuguese star.
Good as he is, Hazard is not quite at the same level as some other players. Paulo Dybala is in better form to replace his new teammate at his former club. The Argentine forward scored 22 goals in 34 appearances in Serie A last term to Hazard's paltry 12 in 35 Premier League matches. Isco will probably match that in the coming season.
Apart from Neymar, who will almost certainly remain at Paris Saint-Germain, the best player to replace Ronaldo is Liverpool's Mo Salah. The Egyptian had the football world talking last season and that was not by accident. His performances at Basel foreshadowed his success before he began filling the net for Roma.
Chelsea could not see the beauty they had and allowed him to go to Italy. His performances for Fiorentina and Roma convinced Liverpool. The Reds paid a club-record fee to secure his services. He has not disappointed. Better, he can only improve.
With 48 goals in 56 matches for the Anfield side in the last campaign, a move for Salah will give Real Madrid a player like Ronaldo. At 33, Ronaldo is set for the downward slide but the 26-year-old Salah is still climbing and Real Madrid are football's Everest.