FIVE years ago, Cristiano Ronaldo picked out his five favourites young stars to keep an eye on.
Back in 2015, speaking ahead of the release of his biopic, Ronaldo, the now-Juventus ace revealed who he was tipping for stardom.
In 2015, Ronaldo picked out his five young stars to watch, including Hazard and Pogba
The then-Real Madrid forward hardly plucked any unheard of stars out of thin air – but it’s fair to say he was accurate in his assessments.
Ronaldo picked Martin Odegaard, Neymar, Eden Hazard, Paul Pogba and Memphis Depay as his top kids to watch.
At the time, he said: “You see many players with potential, I will mention Odegaard of Madrid for example.
“At 16 he’s still young but you can see he’s a very good player.
‘Hazard for example, the No7 of Manchester, Depay, is a good player too. Pogba… and maybe Neymar.”
But how have the chosen five fared since being tipped for stardom by the five-time Ballon d’Or winner?
Martin Odegaard is slowly starting to live up to his potential
Age in 2015: 16
Club in 2015: Real Madrid
Age now: 21
Club now: Real Madrid
JUST months before Ronaldo singled the Norwegian out for praise, Odegaard had left Stromsgodset to join Real Madrid.
Huge things were expected of the wonderkid, who had already made his Norway debut aged just 15.
However, whether it was the weight of expectation or failing to bulk up quickly enough, Odegaard has struggled to make the cut at the Bernabeu.
Odegaard has played just four times in LaLiga across his five years at Real and has been loaned out to Heerenveen, Vitesse Arnhem and Real Sociedad.
For that reason, the playmaker can’t be considered a “hit” – however, he finally showed some promise last season at Sociedad and has featured three times for Zinedine Zidane’s side this campaign.
Verdict: MISS (for now)
Neymar has become one of the world’s top footballers since 2015
Age in 2015: 23
Club in 2015: Barcelona
Age now: 28
Club now: PSG
ALREADY Brazil captain and a mainstay of the Barcelona team in 2015, Neymar was hardly a shock choice from Ronaldo.
Neymar had already won LaLiga and the Champions League just months before Ronaldo’s praise.
However, the brilliant Brazilian would go on to have arguably his best years after, winning the Spanish top-flight crown later that very season.
Neymar later moved on to Paris Saint-Germain – his current club – had has revealed his dream to head “home” to Barca.
Despite the occasional theatrics and a series of injuries hampering his progress, there’s no doubt Neymar has been a hit in world football.
Eden Hazard would enjoy some of his best years after Ronaldo’s praise
Age in 2015: 24
Club in 2015: Chelsea
Age now: 29
Club now: Real Madrid
HAZARD has had a tricky first season at Real following his mega-money move from Chelsea – with concerns over his weight and injuries.
But there’s no doubting Hazard – who’d just won the Premier League Player of the Season en route to helping the Blues to the title in 2015 – had his best years after Ronaldo’s praise.
There were times when the Belgian was absolutely unstoppable, with the 2018-19 season seemingly one long highlight reel.
His hot form attracted the attention of Real, who spared no expense in signing him.
After he admitted to being nearly a stone overweight, Hazard has struggled with injuries AGAIN this season with Zidane recently admitting his latest muscular injury is ‘worse than expected’.
Still only 29 years old, the best could be still to come from Hazard.
Pogba went on to become a World Cup winner with France
Age in 2015: 22
Club in 2015: Juventus
Age now: 27
Club now: Man Utd
A HOT PROSPECT at Manchester United right up until his move to Juve in 2012, Pogba and Ronaldo never actually crossed paths at Old Trafford.
A young Pogba was brought in from Le Havre in 2009 – the same summer Ronaldo headed to Real Madrid.
The French star enjoyed easily his best years in Italy – winning a host of Serie A crowns and personal accolades, with spots in various Teams of the Year.
Just a few months after Ronaldo’s praise, Pogba headed back to Man Utd for a then-world record £89million.
Things have never quite clicked for the Frenchman back at Old Trafford – but he has displayed the occasional flash of brilliance and a desire to play for Real Madrid one day.
His performances in leading France to the 2018 World Cup crown were truly elite and it’s impossible to not consider him a hit.
Memphis Depay never quite lived up to the hype
Age in 2015: 21
Club in 2015: Man Utd
Age now: 26
Club now: Lyon
DEPAY joined United in the summer of 2015 fresh from being crowned the Eredivisie’s top scorer at 21.
But as has so often been the case down the years, the weight of moving to Old Trafford and being thrust into the spotlight, hindered his progress massively.
Depay spent two wholly underwhelming seasons in Manchester before being sold to Lyon in 2017.
The Dutch star has gone on to carve out a solid career in France and has scored 19 times in 51 games for Holland.
And with Barcelona chasing his signature, big things appear to be coming for the winger.
Verdict: HIT (just)
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