Samuel Eto’o believes Lionel Messi’s successor as football’s ultimate Ballon d’Or magnet is none other than his PSG team-mate Kylian Mbappe.
Messi topped the bill in Paris’ showpiece event on Monday night to claim a record seventh Ballon d’Or, outscoring Robert Lewandowski, whom many believe should have sealed the coveted gong, including the Argentinian forward himself.
Lewandowski missed out on winning the 2020 edition after it was cancelled by France Football due to the pandemic, but many were tipping him to claim the annual award this time around after his continued goalscoring heroics for Bayern Munich.
However, Messi ultimately claimed his seventh award to move two ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo in the overall charts, thanks to his goals for Barcelona, in which he sealed a record eighth Pichichi trophy (for top scorer in La Liga) last season and won Copa America with Argentina.
Few can envisage anyone ever surpassing Messi’s haul of seven Ballon d’Ors, but his former Barcelona team-mate, Eto’o, believes current PSG superstar Mbappe has what it takes to succeed the Argentinian genius and dominate the Parisian ceremony “for the next 10 or 15 years”.
“He is there and it has arrived at a good moment, in which Messi and Cristiano, the gods of football, are in the night of their careers due to age and Mbappe is arriving,” Eto’o told AS.
“I hope he will be the biggest for the next 10 or 15 years. He has everything to be this unique player that soccer needs after these two monsters.”
Although there were cries for Lewandowski to win the award ahead of Messi, Eto’o thinks his former team-mate was worthy of strengthening his grip as the Ballon d’Or’s most succesful recipient.
He continued: “Leo deserves everything that is beautiful in this world, so I am happy for him, for what he has contributed, what he contributes and what he will contribute.
“Now that he has the seventh I hope the eighth comes.
“[Karim] Benzema and Lewandowski obviously deserved it. Mbappe deserved it, [N’Golo] Kante deserved it, Jorginho deserved it…
“But football is like that. Many of us think that we could be considered the [winner of the] Ballon d’Or, but then there are people who are there to choose and we have to respect it.
“They have thought, like me, that Leo is the best and that he has to win.”