Few Players Dubbed ‘The Next Messi’ in the Premier League

Liv Butler
Authored by Liv Butler
Posted Thursday, June 27, 2024 - 4:42pm

A few players who once were dubbed ‘The Next Messi’ back then have been in the Premier League.

The name ‘Lionel Messi’ has been a legend in world football, even though the Argentine talisman never had a chance to ply his trade in the English top flight. In the past, especially during the pinnacle of Messi’s career, there have been players who were dubbed ‘The Next Messi’ around the world due to their incredible talents. After a while, most have failed to live up to expectations from their fans. Some have had an average career, whereas a few have been fairly successful.

The Premier League has seen at least some of them attempt to conquer this so-called ‘best league in the world’. Here are those remarkable figures once dubbed ‘the Next Messi’ and how their careers have turned out. Two of them are still living their dream on English soil.

Martin Odegaard

The 25-year-old attacking midfielder is currently Arsenal’s captain. He was touted as ‘The Next Messi’ back in the early 2010s due to his physical figure and style of play, which is unlike that of regular Scandinavian players. In early 2014, he became the youngest player in the Norwegian top flight when he signed a professional contract with Stromsgodset when he was still 15 years of age. A year later, Real Madrid came calling and was able to convince him to join them after training in the Spanish capital for a month. That was where his stagnancy began. He was never able to break into the star-studded first team with the likes of Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, and Isco in the squad, despite making his senior debut in the 2014/15 season.

Odegaard was even sent on loan several times from Vitesse Arnhem, Heerenveen, and Real Sociedad before he was called back to Bernabeu in summer 2020 under Zinedine Zidane. Unfortunately, he did not seem to be ready yet after making no contribution in nine games in all competition with Los Merengues in the 2020–21 season. The Drammen-born midfielder was eventually loaned out again, with the Premier League as his next destination in January 2021. Arsenal, one of his initial suitors when he was still in Stromsgodset, appeared to be an ideal club for him. The Gunners gave him a chance to grow and settle with the team. He managed to make 14 appearances in the EPL with one goal and two assists, not to mention his six games and one goal in the Europa League.

He finally sealed a move to Emirates in 2021 and has become a mainstay under Mikel Arteta ever since. His career might have yet been glittering with individual records and silverware like Messi himself when he was 25 years old, but Odegaard has found his perfect place with 35 goals and 25 assists in 153 games. As a skipper, he would have to lead his team to improve their form again to not only become the regular title contender but also lift the actual EPL trophy to end their league title drought and surely boost Arsenal ticket demand.

Xerdan Shaqiri

The Swiss international was once tipped ‘as the next Messi’ in the late 2000s. Unlike Odegaard, he took his time well by staying at FC Basel until he was 20 years old in 2012 before eventually moving to a top club, Bayern Munich. Unfortunately, his spell in the Bundesliga did not work out well. Shaqiri did manage to play 81 times in all competitions but only contributed 17 goals and 19 assists.

His attempts to bounce back at Inter Milan did not succeed either in 2015. The attacking midfielder with Albanian roots only featured in 20 games with three goals and two assists in his collection. So did his stints in two other big teams, Liverpool and Lyon, when he was not the mainstay in the team, especially in Anfield. The 32-year-old midfielder did enjoy the trophy-laden years from 2018 to 2021, with the UEFA Champions League, Premier League, and FIFA Club World Cup in hand, but only registered eight goals and nine assists in 63 matches. 

Shaqiri’s most memorable spell was during his stay in Stoke City. The current Chicago Fireman helped them finish ninth in the 2015/16 campaign and 13th in the following season before going down to the championship in 2018. He scored 15 goals and assisted each in 92 appearances for Stoke-on-Trent.

Gerard Deulofeu

The current Udinese man is the product of La Masia Academy in Barcelona, the same academy as Messi. He was also dubbed ‘the next Messi’ in his early appearances on the youth team. The attacking midfielder had stints at two Premier League sides, Everton and Watford, with an average performance. In his first spell for the Toffees, he even helped them finish fifth in the 2013–14 season, registering three goals and assists each in 25 games.

Deulofeu did return to Camp Nou in 2017 after his fairly impressive stints at Goodison Park, as well as at AC Milan and Sevilla. Under Ernesto Valverde, he was only able to score twice and provide two assists, despite making 23 appearances. In mid-2017/18, he was sent on loan again to England, this time with Watford. On Vicarage Road, he found his form again despite being sidelined several times. The player with only four international caps sealed a permanent move to the Hornets in summer 2018 before switching sides to Udinese in 2021.

Mo Salah 

He is probably the most successful former next-generation Messi who has had the most complete silverware at the club level and even became the direct contender for the real Lionel Messi in the FIFA Best Player Award back in 2019. 

Mo Salah was once dubbed the Arabian Messi back in the early 2010s while playing for Basel. He then made an early move to the EPL by joining Chelsea in 2014, but his regular playing time there was limited. The Egyptian was loaned out to Italy with Fiorentina and AS Roma before returning to England with the Reds. 

Anfield has become his new home and the place where he has cemented his name as one of the club’s key men and legends. Salah won the Premier League Golden Boot three times, as well as the league title in 2020, the Champions League, the UEFA Super Cup, the FIFA Club World Cup in 2019, and the FA Cup in 2022. Overall, he has netted 211 goals and made 89 assists in 349 games for the Reds.

Unlike Messi, who has transformed into a more complete attacking midfielder by operating all across the second line, the former Basel man sticks to Messi’s early position as a right winger who likes to cut inside, relying on pace and goalscoring prowess.


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