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Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland begin new Champions League rivarly after Messi-Ronaldo era

As Lionel Messi lifted the World Cup in Doha, Kylian Mbappe was “livid”. It of course wasn’t because of his former team-mate’s success. It was that Mbappe had missed his only chance to emulate Pele and win two World Cup finals by the age of 23. The Paris Saint-Germain star is said to be more aware of his legacy than perhaps any previous major player in history – certainly much more than Erling Haaland.

It is why he is now so singularly focused on the Champions League. That’s why he ultimately wants to go to Real Madrid. Watching Haaland lift it in June will have only added to that, all the more so because the Manchester City forward clearly doesn’t care quite as much. That isn’t to say he didn’t greatly want it, of course, but it’s one growing difference with Mbappe.

The Norwegian said only last week he didn’t care for that projected rivalry, either, and that might well be true. Those differences between Haaland and Mbappe will still define the next decade of football in the same way those between Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo did the last decade.

That all might seem rather neat since this is the first Champions League season without either of its greatest players, but then the fact the Haaland-Mbappe doesn’t fit so neatly only makes it more alluring.

While the French star is perhaps considered closer to Messi as an all-round playmaker, it is Haaland who is closer to the Argentine in terms of mindset. Those who know both say their approach to it all is more rudimentary. Both Messi and Haaland basically think that they are gifted so they will win. Everything becomes just an expression of their talent, meaning it’s not like they think about the game all the time.

Haaland drew laughter at the recent PFA awards when he spoke about