Legends don’t come about every day, but there’s a crop of current superstars, aged 25 or younger, who are already so crucial to their club or country, that they could very well become the future of footballing folklore.
Whether it is laying claim to being their country’s greatest player of all time in spite of their tender age, to steadfastly committing to one club through everything, or simply capturing the hearts and imagination of fans all around the world with their stunning ability and personality, these six young superstars are already legends…
Mauro Icardi has already shown that he can divide and unite a fan base early in his career. The 24-year-old was named Inter Milan captain at the tender age of 22, before angry supporters later demanded he leave the leave the club following offence from a chapter in his autobiography.
This season, Icardi has Inter fans back onside. His goals have fired the Nerazzurri up the Serie A table to challenge for the title for the first time in years, while he continues to pledge himself to the club by publicly dismissing rumours of interest from Real Madrid.
Mohamed Salah had the hopes of an entire nation resting on his shoulders when he stepped up to take a penalty deep into stoppage time that gave Egypt the chance to secure a place at the World Cup for the first time since 1990, and only the third time ever.
Already a national hero as a result of his rise at Basel, his form at Roma earned him a £34m move to Liverpool and he has made a flying start to life back in the Premier League. If he continues like this he could easily soon be the best Egyptian player of all time.
Loyalty can be fleeting in football, but after joining Atletico Madrid from rivals Real at the age of 13, Saul Niguez has never wavered from Los Rojiblancos. His ‘desire to play first team football for Atleti’ even led him to play with a catheter for two years as a result of a kidney illness.
Despite his health problems, Saul, now 23 years of age, has established himself as one of the best midfielders in Europe. But rather than accept rumoured interest from elite clubs, he signed a nine-year contract with Atletico in 2016, a level of commitment unheard of in this day and age.
Named a one-hit wonder after the 2014/15 season, Harry Kane has since won back-to-back Premier League Golden Boots in England’s top flight – the first Englishman to do so since Alan Shearer 20 years earlier – and will certainly be looking to make it three in a row come May 2018.
The 24-year-old, a skilled all-rounder at the top end of the pitch, will lead the line for England at the World Cup in the summer and has already had chances to turn his back on boyhood club Spurs to shoot for the stars elsewhere. Yet he remains committed to being a ‘one-club man’.
As far as modern-day superstars are concerned, not many come bigger than Paul Pogba. Not only is the young Frenchman one of the best and most dynamic players in the world already, he has a personality of epic proportions that goes hand in hand with his on-field talent.
At the age of 24, Pogba has become a genuine icon. He single-handedly makes Manchester United a much better team, as his recent injury absence severely highlighted, and is a branding machine that has made him one of the most recognisable faces on the planet.
When Paris Saint-Germain signed Neymar in the summer of 2017, they weren’t just signing a world class player for a vast new world record fee, they were adding a whole new country of 208 million people to their fan base, such is his status back home in Brazil.
Still only 25 years of age, Neymar is already Brazil’s fourth all-time top scorer and has incredibly scored 300 career goals for club and country. The latest ‘new Pele’ is the only one who has actually been able to live up to the hype and is thriving off it. Eventually, he may even be able to surpass the master.
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