France’s Kylian Mbappe and Norway’s Erling Haaland could potentially create the greatest soccer rivalry of all time


Kylian Mbappe (left) and Erling Haaland (right) are building a soccer rivalry that could equal that of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, two names even non-soccer fans know. For the past 15 years those two, alongside each other, have broken every type of record and revolutionized the game to be what it is today. With nearly 1,500 goals between them, Messi and Ronaldo, at 33 and 36 years old respectively sit comfortably on soccer’s Mount Rushmore, each with their own argument on why they should be considered the greatest of all time. 

Messi and Ronaldo, indubitably, have given us the greatest rivalry between two players ever, but that could soon change with two new young phenoms taking the soccer world by storm. It will be very difficult for anyone to overpass the over 700 goals scored each by Ronaldo and Messi, and also overtake the combined 11 Ballon D’ors (the annual best player in the world award) they won, but if there are two players who can do it, it will most definitely be Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland.

Over a decade younger than Messi and Ronaldo, Mbappe, 22, and Haaland, 20, have already started shattering records left and right. Statistically, they are already on pace to overtake the long-standing duo; the big question will be whether or not they can keep the pace up for nearly 15 years as it has been done before them.

Mbappe and Haaland, just like Messi and Ronaldo, are two very different players who have one big thing in common: they know how to put the ball on the back of the net. Mbappe, in his short career, has already scored over 173 goals in 276 games, while Haaland, in an even shorter career, has scored 104 goals in only 133 games.

Mbappe started his campaign to establish himself at the top back in the 2018 World Cup. While still a teenager, at 19, Mbappe already added to his resume something neither Messi nor Ronaldo have been able to do: he won the World Cup with France while being a starter and a key part of the French squad. Mbappe became the second-youngest player ever to score in the World Cup final, finishing the tournament with four goals, two of them coming in France’s victory over Messi and his Argentina side when they met in the Round of 16. Mbappe stole the show, showing not only Messi but the whole world he is the real deal.

Haaland also made his first big impact on the soccer world at an early age with the national team. On May 30, 2019, Haaland alongside the Norway U20 national team took on Honduras in a match for the U20 World Cup. Norway went on to win 12-0 with 18-year-old Haaland scoring 9 goals, a U20 World Cup record. 

Since bursting onto the soccer scene in grand fashion, Mbappe and Haaland have taken different paths. Mbappe plays at home for French side Paris Saint-Germain, while Haaland plays for German club Borussia Dortmund. Both clubs are regular championship contenders in the Uefa Champions League, the biggest club tournament in the world. The records for goals in the competition belong to Ronaldo with Messi trailing him, but when it comes to goals before turning 21, both Mbappe and Haaland have left their names in the record books, with Mbappe first breaking the record and then Haaland taking the record from him. 

In the Champions League, some could argue Haaland has had the best career start of all time. While Mbappe stands at 25 goals in his first 40 Champions League games, and 18 goals before the age of 21, Haaland needed just 14 games to reach 20 goals, and all 20 have come before the age of 21, shattering Mbappe’s previous record. The 20 Champions League goals helped put Haaland at a mark of 49 goals in 49 games for Borussia Dortmund, a ratio that if he keeps up will put him at the eighth-best goals per game ratio of all time. 

Although a more successful start goals-wise, Haaland hasn’t been able to convert the goals to wins like Mbappe. The two met in the Champions League round of 16 the past year with Mbappe coming out on top after two games of pure excitement. With Mbappe mocking Haaland after the win, a rivalry that will last for years was kicked off. Mbappe went on a run and made the final, but lost to European champions Bayern Munich. 

Many rumors suggest the two could end up teaming up in the near future at Spanish side Real Madrid. The two could go on to do something Messi and Ronaldo never did and potentially form the greatest duo of all time. If it happens, fans will enjoy watching the two dominate together, but for now, we need to appreciate the start of what could come out to be the greatest rivalry of all time.