Back in 2016 Cristiano Ronaldo was asked to name five players he believed had the potential to follow in his footsteps.
He told BT Sport: “You see many players with potential, I will mention [Martin] Odegaard of Madrid for example. At 16 he’s still young but you can see he’s a very good player. [Eden] Hazard for example, the No.7 of Manchester [Memphis] Depay is a good player too. [Also Paul] Pogba and maybe Neymar.”
Odegaard had the world at his feet at the time, having just signed for Real Madrid from Stromsgodset.
But the transfer was bitter sweet as there was little chance of the youngster breaking into the first team at Real Madrid at just 16, meaning his progression stalled.
Odegaard was sent on loan to Heerenveen in 2017 before he later temporarily joined Vitesse and then Real Sociedad.
Back in Spain this season he’s found some form, and showing signs that he may well reach his potential. Whether he’ll hit Ronaldo heights remains to be seen.
Hazard was at the top of his game at Chelsea before he completed a big-money move to Real Madrid in the summer of 2019.
But injuries have really hampered the Belgian’s progress, and he’s failed to find any real form in Spain.
Hazard is 29 now meaning not only are his best days probably behind him, there is a lot riding on next season being a success.
Much was expected from Depay when he signed for Manchester United, but for one reason or another things just didn’t work out.
Wayne Rooney put it down to the fact the Dutchman was too young and a little misguided.
He told the Sunday Times back in 2018: “He [Depay] came on at Stoke away and messed up for their goal.
“So, Louis van Gaal made him play for the reserves the next day. I said, ‘Look, it’s a bit difficult [for you]. Just don’t come in with all your fancy stuff.’
“And he turned up for the reserve game in his Rolls-Royce, wearing a leather jacket and a cowboy hat. And I just thought, ‘What’s the point?’
“But Memphis is a lovely lad and it’s good to see things going well for him now.”
Depay left Manchester United for Lyon in 2017, where he has come on leaps and bounds in France.
The 26-year-old is now a regular in the Holland set-up, and was recently linked with a move back to the Premier League. But if Depay was destined to reach Ronaldo’s heights he would be on course to do so by now.
Pogba was at Juventus when Ronaldo tipped him for greatness, and then just a few months later he moved to Manchester United in a club-record £89million deal.
But the Frenchman’s career has stalled somewhat at Old Trafford.
Of course, Pogba won the World Cup with France in 2018, but United have struggled to get the best out of him, and his time in Manchester has been constantly disrupted by rumours he’s planning to leave for Real Madrid.
Perhaps a move would be good for him, perhaps he’s just a few games away from reaching top form for Manchester United and turning the club back into the league’s best, or perhaps he’s achieved all that he will… only time will tell.
Neymar is the final player Ronaldo tipped for greatness, and perhaps is the biggest disappointment on the list, given how much potential he had.
The Brazilian had won the Champions League with Barcelona the season before Ronaldo’s comments, but has failed to match this feat in the following years.
Neymar orchestrated a world-record £198million transfer to Paris Saint-Germain in 2017, but in hindsight the move wasn’t a good one.
Paris Saint-Germain haven’t gone further than the last-16 of the Champions League since Neymar joined the club.
Of course, PSG have cleaned up in Ligue 1, but this isn’t the same as winning the Premier League or La Liga title.
Injuries have also played a part in Neymar’s regression, with the Brazilian failing to make last year’s Ballon d’Or shortlist.
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