BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 20: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona during the La Liga Santander  match between FC Barcelona v Sevilla at the Camp Nou on October 20, 2018 in Barcelona Spain (Photo by Jeroen Meuwsen/Soccrates/Getty Images)

11 Players Dubbed the 'New Messi' & How Their Careers Actually Turned Out

It's always difficult for young players when they're compared to more established professionals when breaking into the world of football. 


The additional pressure and expectation that comes with being compared to some of football's established elite must be difficult for a teenager to deal with. That pressure can be multiplied tenfold the standard to live up to is greatest footballer in history in Lionel Messi. 


In reality, no player could hope to match the one of a kind genius or career of Messi, but that hasn't stopped people making comparisons. 


Here are 11 players from around the globe who were hailed as the 'New Messi', and how they inevitably failed to live up to that billing. 

11. Pietro Pellegri - The Italian Messi

Age:17

Clubs: Genoa, Monaco

Goals: 4

Honours: N/A

New Messi Rating: N/A


One of the more recent sufferers of next Messi syndrome, Pellegri provides the perfect example of young players having the weight of expectation thrust upon them. Pellegri is the joint youngest player to ever play in Serie A, making his Genoa debut aged 15 in 2016.


Pellegri has since earned a move to Monaco, joining the French side for £22m in January. Still only 17, Pellegri has a lot of time to live up to the hype that has surrounded his fledgling career. 


When he was just 14, Genoa chairman Enrico Preziosi officially dubbed Pellegri 'the new Messi', despite them looking nothing alike and playing with distinctly different styles. 


Aged 16, Pellegri became the first player born in the year 2000 (doesn't that just make you feel ill) to score in Serie A. 


The young Italian has made an impressive start to life in football, but has a long way to go to reach the heights many believe he is capable of. 

10. Ryan Gauld - The Scottish Messi

Age: 22

Clubs: Dundee United, Sporting CP, Vitória de Setúbal (loan), Aves (loan)

Goals: 20

Honours: Taça de Portugal

New Messi Rating: 2/10


Much was expected from the young Scot, who burst onto the Scottish football scene aged 17. 


Gauld's quick dribbling and diminutive stature drew comparisons to Messi (there may be a pattern emerging there) as he dazzled for Dundee United alongside future Scotland captain Andrew Robertson. 


Gauld attracted attention from a host of Europe's top clubs, including the likes of Manchester United and Real Madrid. 


He eventually chose Sporting CP as his suitors however, signing for the Portuguese club in 2014 and earned a place in the cub's Champions League squad that season after impressing then manager Marco Silva. However Gauld hasn't exactly set the world alight since. 


The majority of his Sporting career has been spent in the club's B team, and he's only made five appearances for the senior side. Gauld is currently on loan at fellow Portuguese side Aves, and at 22 he still has time to make a decent career for himself.

9. Sardar Azmoun - The Iranian Messi

Age: 23

Clubs: Sepahan, Rubin Kazan, Rostov

Goals: 41

Honours: N/A

New Messi Rating: 3/10


Much of the hype surrounding Sardar Azmoun is largely resultant of him being an above average footballer from a below average footballing nation. 


The forward has spent all of his senior career so far in Russia, and turned heads as a precocious teenager. 


Azmoun joined Rubin Kazan for the first time aged 17 in 2012, becoming the Russian Premier League's first Iranian player in the process. 


At 6ft 1in and with great aerial prowess, Azmoun perhaps more closely resembles Zlatan Ibrahimovic than Messi, but the 'New Messi' syndrome doesn't aknowledge by such constraints. 


The 23-year-old has been a shining light at international level, scoring an impressive 23 goals in 37 international appearances - making him Iran's fifth highest goal scorer of all time. He was expected to be Iran's great hope at the 2018 World Cup, but the side were eliminated in the group stage. 


While his early career hasn't been a patch on Messi's, a move to Europe's top five leagues could see him take off in the near future.

8. Muhammed Demirci - The Turkish Messi

Age: 23

Clubs: Besiktas, Gaziantep BB (loan), Royal Mouscron-Péruwelz, Istanbulspor

Goals: 8

Honours: Turkish Cup

New Messi Rating: 1/10


The peak of Muhammed Demirci's career looks to have already come. He created a buzz aged 15, when he signed his first professional deal with Turkish giants Besiktas. 


He was afforded sporadic first team opportunities in his five year spell there, but the coaching staff were keen on him to ad some muscle to his diminutive 5ft 6in frame. 


Whilw he was a wonderkid as a teenager, his career didn't kick on the way many in his homeland expected it would. 


It could've been so different for Demirci though. He had a ten-day trial at Barcelona when he was still a teenager, but a transfer to the Catalan giants never materialised. Instead, he had to settle for a stint with Belgian minnows Mouscron after failing to establish himself at Besiktas. A late career resurgence looks unlikely for a player who once promised so much. 

7. Iker Muniain - The Spanish Messi

Age: 25

Clubs: Athletic Bilbao

Goals: 54

Honours: UEFA European U-21 Championship x2

New Messi Rating: 4/10


Once described as  'El Messi del Botxo’ (the Messi of Bilbao), Iker Muniain broke into the Athletic Bilbao side to much furore. 


At 16 Muniain made his first team debut for Bilbao and was the club's second youngest player to do so. Much was expected of the young winger, and he showed signs of living up to such promise. 


At 25, Muniain has played over 350 times for his boyhood club, and was a key part of their 2011/12 season which saw them come just short in the Copa Del Rey and Europa League.


However because so much was expected of him, he's struggled to hit those heights. In nine seasons, Muniain is yet to enter double figures for goal scoring in a single campaign, and his international prospects look bleak despite winning two European Championships at under 21 level. 


The 2011 La Liga Breakthrough Player of the Year has grown into a reputable star and could still have an impressive second half to his career, but reaching Messi-esque levels of success is clearly not an option. 

6. Ryo Miyaichi - The Japanese Messi

Age: 25

Clubs: Feyenoord (loan), Arsenal, Bolton Wanderers (loan), Wigan Athletic (loan), FC Twente (loan), Jong FC Twente (loan), St. Pauli

Goals: 9

Honours: N/A

New Messi Rating: 2/10


The Japanese winger had Arsenal fans frantically searching YouTube clips when it was announced that he was singing for the club in 2011. 


After impressing during a trial, Miyaichi signed a professional contract with the Gunners, with Arsene Wenger declaring that Miyaichi had 'raw ability which has attracted many clubs around the world'. 


His speed and dribbling which he showcased playing in Japan was enough to have fans believe they had a wonderkid on their hands. 


Signing for Arsenal looks to be where Miyaichi's career peaked. He was immediately loaned to Eredivisie side Feyenoord, but failed to make an impression upon returning to Arsenal. 


After loans to Bolton, Wigan, and FC Twente Miyaichi's Arsenal career ended with him making just one league appearances for the Gunners. Miyaichi - now 25 - currently plies his trade for St. Pauli in the German second division, with his Player of the Month award for Bolton in 2012 being the closest thing he has to a career honour. 

5. Erik Lamela - The (Next) Argentine Messi

Age: 26

Clubs: River Plate, Roma, Tottenham

Goals: 53

Honours: N/A

New Messi Rating: 5/10


Lamela's start in football could've been near identical to that of Messi, as Barcelona came calling for the now Tottenham star as a seven-year-old, wanting him to join their famous La Masia academy. 


Lamela and his family opted to stay in Argentina, and he made his first team debut for River Plate aged 17. He eventually made his mark in Europe, signing for Roma and scoring a respectable 15 goals in the 2012/13 season. 


Gareth Bale's at the time world record transfer to Real Madrid meant that Tottenham had a huge void to fill, and they splashed £31m on Lamela making him the club's most expensive player. 


His time at White Hart Lane hasn't been smooth sailing. Poor form and a bad hip injury meant that Lamela's first couple seasons at Spurs were largely forgettable. Only now is he discovering his best form under Mauricio Pochettino, and he is slowly becoming one of Tottenham's more influential players. He's only just entering his prime, so the best could still be yet to come. 

4. Gai Assulin - The Israeli Messi

Age: 27

Clubs: Barcelona B, Barcelona, Manchester City, Brighton (loan), Racing Santander, Granada, Hercules (loan), Mallorca, Hapoel Tel Aviv, Sabadell, Kairat

Goals: 22

Honours: N/A

New Messi Rating: 1/10


One of Messi's supposed heirs came from the same La Masia academy that produced the Argentine superstar. A tricky attacking midfielder who came from Barcelona's academy was bound to draw Messi comparisons sooner or later. 


Working with Guardiola in the Barcelona B team, Assulin was promoted to the first team squad when Pep became Barça manager in 2008. During this year, Assulin became Israel's youngest ever player at just 16 years of age. 


Assulin never made a league appearance for the Catalan club, with his only appearance coming in the Copa Del Rey. 


He then left for Manchester City in 2010 in search of first team football, but had no luck there either. He never made an appearance for City, but he may be remembered by Brighton fans for his loan spell there in 2012. 


After doing the rounds of second division Spanish teams, Assulin now plays for Kairat in the Kazakhstan Premier League.

3. Bojan - The Catalan Messi

Age: 28

Clubs: Barcelona B, Barcelona, Roma, Milan (loan), Ajax (loan), Stoke City, Mainz (loan), Alaves (loan)

Goals: 84

Honours: La Liga x3, Copa del Rey, Supercopa de Espana x2, UEFA Champions League x2, UEFA Super Cup, FIFA Club World Cup, UEFA U-17 European Championship, UEFA U-21 European Championship

New Messi Rating: 5/10


Another La Masia graduate, Bojan Krkic turned many heads during his time in the academy, reportedly scoring a staggering 900+ goals for the club's youth teams. 


Bojan became Bareclona's youngest ever La Liga player - breaking the record set by Lionel Messi himself. In his first three seasons in the first team, Bojan reached double figures in each of them. He was even part of the squad that won the Champions League in 2011. The future was looking bright for the Catalan forward, until he fell out of favour with Pep Guardiola. 


Bojan's quest for regular football and a manager who believed in him took him on a European journey. Stints at Roma, AC Milan and Ajax led to him taking on one of football's greatest challenges - doing it on a cold, windy Tuesday night in Stoke.  


After a loan at Mainz and a period playing for the under 23s, Bojan still plays for Stoke in the Championship. 

2. Giovani Dos Santos - The Mexican Messi

Age: 29

Clubs: Barcelona B, Barcelona, Tottenham, Ipswich Town (loan), Galatasaray (loan), Racing Santander (loan), Mallorca, Villareal, La Galaxy

Goals: 70

Honours: FIFA U-17 World Championship, CONCACAF Gold Cup x3, Olympic Gold Medal

New Messi Rating: 3/10


Dos Santos' career couldn't have gotten off to a better start really. 


Mirroring Messi's own continental switch, the quick-footed Mexican moved to Barcelona's youth team aged 11 and made his first team debut aged 18.


After an impressive hat-trick against Real Murcia, the young Mexican looked like he was well on his way to fulfilling his potential. 


The pivotal moment in his career came after the Murcia game, when he sealed a move to Tottenham in search of first team football. 


He swapped Pep Guardiola for Harry Redknapp and things were never the same. His time at White Hart Lane was mostly restricted to appearances in domestic cups and the Europa League, and he never kicked on in London. 


After several loan spells he eventually returned to Spain, and moved to America not long after.


Who knows how different his career would've panned out if he stuck around for the Pep revolution. 

1. Marko Marin - The German Messi

Age: 29

Clubs: Borussia Mönchengladbach, Werder Bremen, Chelsea, Sevilla (loan), Fiorentina (loan), Anderlecht (loan), Trabzonspor (loan), Olympiakos, Red Star Belgrade

Goals: 50

Honours: 2. Bundesliga, Europa League x2, Superleague Greece, UEFA European U-21 Championship, FIFA World Cup Third Place

New Messi Rating: 3/10


Marko Marin first made a name for himself in his adopted homeland of Germany. The diminutive attacker signed for Werder Bremen from Borussia Mönchengladbach in 2009, and the then 20-year-old started to show glimpses of his talent. 


Being a small, fast dribbler, it's easy to see where the Messi comparisons came from. Marin played in the same Bremen side as Mesut Ozil, and started to attract admiring glances from European teams. Marin was also part of the Germany side that beat England in the u21 European Championship final in 2009 - the same side that churned out World Cup winners Ozil, Manuel Neuer, Sami Khedira and Mats Hummels.


Marin made the move to Chelsea in 2012, but quickly fell into the purgatory that was their loan system. Four loans in three seasons at Sevilla, Fiorentina, Anderlecht and Trabzonspor culminated in Marin moving to Olympiakos permanently in 2016, having made just 16 appearances for Chelsea. 


Now 29, Marin plays for Serbian outfit Red Star Belgrade and starred in their recent win over Liverpool in the Champions League.