IF you come for the king, you best not miss.
After the round of 16, Kylian Mbappe was Dream Team World Cup’s outright best player by a comfortable margin.
Having raced out in front in the Golden Boot race, the 23-year-old had 48 points to his name heading into his quarter-final against England, a full 12 points ahead of his closest rival, Lionel Messi.
Given the 12-year age difference between the two forwards, the dynamic felt like a continuation of a theme that has dictated the last few years: a passing of the torch from one generational talent to another.
And while it seems inevitable that Mbappe will indisputably hold the crown of world’s best player some time soon (if he doesn’t already) Messi is raging against the dying of the light in Qatar.
Messi isn’t giving up the crown easilygetty
And in fact, the balance of power between the two global superstars was readdressed during the quarter-finals, as evidenced by the Dream Team World Cup rankings.
Les Bleus edged out Gareth Southgate’s men but their No10 had a relatively quiet game, registering a blank.
Whereas Argentina once again leaned on their captain to squeeze out Netherlands.
In a game rammed full of needle of ill-will, some genuine football occasionally broke out and one of the highlights was Messi’s inch-perfect disguised pass to assist Nahuel Molina.
The Albiceleste’s legendary No10 scored a second-half penalty and converted a spot-kick during the shootout to book his place in the semi-finals.
When all was said and done, Messi banked 14 points to take his overall tally to 50, meaning he reclaimed his throne from Mbappe to become the game’s top asset.
Mbappe blanked against England
The 35-year-old is the only man to have earned three Star Man awards at this late stage of the tournament – class really is permanent.
It should go without saying that all Dream Team World Cup gaffers would probably be wise to back both to thrive once more in the semis.
The pair come at an eye-watering cost of £15million but with a combined points total of 98 they’ve justified their price tags twice over.
On paper, Argentina and France are favourites to meet in the final but only a fool would underestimate Croatia or Morocco at this stage.
Still, Messi and Mbappe have nine goals and four assists between them in Qatar so the underdogs will be thoroughly up against it in midweek.
The battle for supremacy in Dream Team World Cup is set to go down to the wire as even if one of the front-runners gets through to the final and the other doesn’t, the latter will have the third-place play-off to fulfil.
Another PSG star, Achraf Hakimi, is the next-best performer still active at the tournament but he’s 14 points short of Mbappe’s total currently – realistically it’s a two-horse race for top spot.
Mbappe will also be looking over his shoulder in the Golden Boot hunt – Messi and Olivier Giroud have four goals each to the young whippersnapper’s five.