• Thursday, July 25, 2024

FOOTBALL

Mbappe needs a rival like Ronaldo had Messi, says Michael Owen

Mbappe celebrates after France’s victory against Belgium in Euro 2024. (Photo: Getty Images)

By: Vivek Mishra

KYLIAN MBAPPE is set to become “one of the greatest players,” but he will need a rival to push him like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi did for each other, said former England player Michael Owen on Wednesday.

With Ronaldo confirming that Euro 2024 will be his last appearance in the tournament, attention is shifting to future stars who can fill his shoes. Owen believes there is plenty of young talent ready to take the spotlight.

“Kylian Mbappe is going to be one of the greatest players,” Owen said in response to a PTI query during a virtual interaction organised by SonyLiv. “He has already said this will be his last year or so. It’s life. We’ve probably seen him already at his best. He’s not going to get any better now.”

Owen highlighted other emerging talents like Jamal Musiala, Jude Bellingham, and Phil Foden, but emphasised Mbappe’s exceptional quality.

“Mbappe is something special, something that when you watch a game, he takes your breath away. Maybe he needs somebody else to push him like Messi and Ronaldo had throughout their careers. Over the next five, six, seven, eight years, we’re going to be very entertained by Mbappe,” Owen added.

The French captain has scored just one goal in the ongoing Euro, where they reached the quarters thanks to an own goal from Belgium. France will face Portugal in the last eight on Saturday.

Owen believes Ronaldo should continue to start for Portugal. “When you’ve got somebody as good as him, he must play. Nobody scores goals like him. Just his name on the team sheet gives Portugal a presence, it gives them an identity,” Owen said. “If you want the ball to stop at one person’s feet anywhere in the world and put your life on it, in the last minute against France, who is it going to be? You want it to be Ronaldo.”

Owen described last World Cup’s runners-up France as the “best team in the world” and backed them to perform well in the competition. “What we have seen is a lot of big teams, strong teams, being on one side of the draw and that’s given opportunity on the other side for some of the dark horses,” he said. “England have been quite fortunate to be on that side of the draw, but it might be a surprise package that comes from that side.”

“Before the tournament, I thought France were the likeliest winners. They’ve had tough games now, but I still think they’re the best team in Europe and probably the world,” he added.

Owen mentioned that England need to improve if they want to win the Euro Cup. “England have struggled a lot. They will need to improve otherwise they won’t win, but we all know they can be better. If their performances improve, they have a good chance of winning this tournament,” he said.

Owen also suggested that England manager Gareth Southgate should make changes, although he doubts it will happen. “Not many teams that win a major tournament play perfect games all the way through. You look at the last World Cup, Argentina had issues in the group stage. Sometimes it’s good to have problems and build into the tournament.”

“I’m trying to look at positives for England because if you look at the performances, there are no positives really. All we can do is hope. I hope the manager changes one or two things, but I don’t think he will,” he added.

(With PTI inputs)

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