Who can replace Messi and Ronaldo? The Champions League's next gen

Ten years ago, a new era dawned in the Champions League. Until then, it had mainly been defined by the victorious clubs and their coaches, but everything changed from the 2007-08 season onwards as it became the theatre in which Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi played out their battle for supremacy.

Over the past 10 seasons, Ronaldo and Messi have won seven Champions League titles between them -- Ronaldo winning four (one with Manchester United and three with Real Madrid); Messi claiming three with Barcelona.

The pair sit in the top two positions in the all-time Champions League goal scoring list with Ronaldo (105) ahead of Messi (94). Real legend Raul, for so long the Champions League benchmark, is way behind in third with 71 goals.

Guess who has scored the most Champions League hat tricks? Yes, that's right, Ronaldo and Messi share top spot with seven apiece -- four more than Mario Gomez, Filippo Inzaghi and Luiz Adriano, who have scored three.

No era of the Champions League has ever been dominated by players to the extent that Ronaldo and Messi have over the past decade, but with the two men now in their 30s, the question is: who will assume their mantle and stake a claim to dominate for the next 10 years? Is it even possible for one or two players to enjoy the same status as Ronaldo and Messi over the next decade?

As the Champions League prepares to return, however, there are a group of young pretenders with the potential to become the new superstars.

Neymar, at 25, and Antoine Griezmann (26) are the two most likely to deny Ronaldo and Messi the Ballon d'Or this season, but their ages deny them the chance to target a decade of dominance in the Champions League.

For that, you have to look at the new wave of talent and there is plenty of it.

Kylian Mbappe announced himself to the world as an 18-year-old during Monaco's run to the semifinals last season.

The French teenager, full of pace, power and goals, has prompted comparisons to Thierry Henry and Real Madrid, Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal all made moves to sign him this summer before Paris Saint-Germain blew them all out of the water by agreeing a €180 million fee with Monaco for the player once his loan at the Parc des Princes ends next summer.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger suggested Mbappe was similar to Pele when asked to described the young France international, but can he do what Ronaldo did at United and Real, or Messi with Barca, by inspiring PSG to continental glory?

Perhaps Mbappe's France teammate, Ousmane Dembele, has a better chance of doing that at Barcelona following his €105m (rising to €147m) move from Borussia Dortmund.

The 20-year-old must first take on the challenge of replacing Neymar at the Nou Camp, following the Brazilian's world-record €222m move to PSG, before setting his sights on dominating the Champions League stage.

But like Mbappe, he has pace and goals in his locker and is playing for a club capable of winning three or four European titles in the next 10 years.

Real would argue with that, especially considering their status as back-to-back winners. Ronaldo will not go on forever, nor will Gareth Bale, but in Marco Asensio, Real possess the rising star of Spanish football and a player already being groomed to become the centrepiece of Real's next team.

After being signed for just €3.9m from Mallorca in 2014, Asensio cost Real a fraction of the fees paid out for Mbappe and Dembele, but he is capable of having the same kind of impact on the Champions League.

The Premier League also possesses a clutch of young stars with the talent to stride across the Champions League stage, however, and restore English club football to an era of European supremacy.

Gabriel Jesus, at 20, is likely to become a global superstar, with the Brazilian already earmarked as Neymar's long-term successor on the international stage.

Working under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, Jesus has a manager and club desperate for Champions League glory and his attacking qualities make him a match for Mbappe, Dembele and Asensio.

Across town, at Manchester United, Marcus Rashford is another who has all the credentials to become a footballing superstar.

Quick, with awareness and maturity beyond his 19 years, the Mancunian can play across the front three and has already scored goals for club and country at the highest level.

With Paul Pogba, aged 24, behind him in midfield, United believe they have built the foundations of a winning future, but Rashford is the jewel in the crown at Old Trafford and Europe will be eagerly anticipating his debut on the Champions League stage.

Dele Alli, at Spurs, is another with the potential to become a Champions League heavyweight, but can Tottenham take him to that level?

And Ben Woodburn, Liverpool's prodigious 17-year-old forward, also has the potential to make a huge impact on the Champions League stage, if not this season, then in the future.

Ronaldo and Messi have set the bar almost impossibly high for the next generation, but the talent is there. It's just a question of which will be highest in the pursuit of emulating their greatness.