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‘At same level as Messi or Ronaldo…’: Ex-Man City defender passes huge verdict | Football News

With Matchday 1 of UEFA Champions League 2023-24 set to begin, this will be the first-time that the competition will be without Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. Messi bid goodbye to European football in this year’s summer transfer window and departed PSG as a free agent. He had an unceremonious exit from Paris, where he was booed by fans in his final fixture for the club and joined David Beckham’s MLS team Inter Miami.

Cristiano Ronaldo plays for Saudi side Al Nassr and Lionel Messi represents MLS team Inter Miami.
Cristiano Ronaldo plays for Saudi side Al Nassr and Lionel Messi represents MLS team Inter Miami.

Meanwhile, Cristiano Ronaldo also had a sad exit from European football, as his contract was terminated by mutual agreement with Manchester United during the 2022 FIFA World Cup, due to a controversial interview with British journalist Piers Morgan. In the interview, the Portugal star criticised the club’s hierarchy and manager Erik ten Hag. After the World Cup, he joined Saudi Pro League side Al Nassr, in a deal worth 200 million euros per year.

The pair were the biggest attractions in every Champions League season for many years, and now their absence will see other stars take up similar roles for fans. Speaking during a media interaction, former Chelsea and Manchester City defender Terry Phelan feels that the duo won’t be sorely missed as there are other ‘quality players’ who could still take the fans off their seats.

“Life goes on, doesn’t it? Clubs go on. I don’t think any player is bigger than their club. It is exciting for managers now. I think if you look at PSG, they had three of the best forwards in the world, Neymar, Mbappe and Messi. They couldn’t hit it together, any manager would have liked to have them. Obviously, Ronaldo’s gone. He left Manchester United. He’s won everything he could win in Europe. Messi’s gone to David Beckham’s Inter Miami. Life goes on and surely they will be missed. If you look at PSG, I think Messi didn’t really settle in Paris. I think it was a poor move for him to tell you the truth and it didn’t really click”, he said.

“We still have stars in the Champions League. Jude Bellingham is there, Erling Haaland is there, Robert Lewandowski, Marcus Rashford, Harry Kane are there with Bayern Munich. Everybody will be looking at him to see what he can do. Ilkay Gundogan for Barcelona. Vinicius Jr. There are upcoming stars, who can score goals. I think the world goes on and football definitely goes on”, he further added.

But the 56-year-old also opined that other than Kylian Mbappe, nobody else is in the same level as Ronaldo or Messi in Europe currently. “There are wonderful players, probably not as big as Messi or Ronaldo. Only Mbappe is at that level. If you look around, there are still some quality players”, he stated.

Meanwhile, fans will also expect Manchester City to begin their title defence on a strong note. The defending champions face Group G opponents Crvena Zvezda, at the Etihad in Manchester. But Pep Guardiola will be wary of Bayern Munich’s threat in their aim to retain the trophy. The Bundesliga giants have reinforced their side with the arrival of Harry Kane and the English striker has had an instant impact.

Naming his top contenders for this season, former Bengaluru FC head coach Ashley Westwood said, “Obviously Manchester City. They are probably one of the main favourites. They started the season well in the Premier League, four wins out of four. They won the treble last season and strengthened their team as well. They have made a couple of decent signings. Obviously Real Madrid, with Jude Bellingham, they have obviously started this season very well. For England the other day, Bellingham was probably the best player on the pitch.”

“The other team that stands out has to be Bayern Munich, with the addition of Harry Kane. He seems to be forming a formidable partnership with Leroy Sane in particular. They have started the season very well. Bayern Munich were always strong. They have got fantastic players, fantastic attackers, good midfield players. Last season, they were missing that center-forward and now they have got Harry Kane. So, for me I will be very amazed if one of those teams doesn’t win the Champions League this season”, he further added.

The UEFA Champions League 2023/24 will be live telecast on Sony Sports Ten 1, Sony Sports Ten 2, Sony Sports Ten 5, Sony Sports Ten 1 HD, Sony Sports Ten 2 HD and Sony Sports Ten 5 HD channels from September 19, 2023, 10:15 PM onwards.

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