But despite their inevitable departure appearing on the horizon, the sport looks to be in safe hands as several of the world’s most promising stars shone for their teams across Europe’s top leagues this weekend.
Some of the best performances came from Joao Felix, Kai Havertz and precocious 16-year-old talent Eduardo Camavinga.
Angolan teenager Camavinga — appearing in only his 10th senior game for Ligue 1 side Rennes — played a starring role in the victory over powerhouse Paris Saint-Germain, assisting for Romain Del Castillo to head home to winner.
After a few breakthrough games last season, his performances this term have really started to turn heads as Rennes narrowly lost to PSG in the Champions’ Trophy and opened its Ligue 1 campaign with back-to-back wins.
Camavinga was born in Angola and moved to France at the age of two, reports L’Equipe. He was spotted by Rennes playing football in Fougères, 50 kilometers from the city, at the age of 13.
READ: Liverpool holds on for win against Southampton despite Adrian howler
READ: Without Lionel Messi, Barcelona stunned by Athletic Bilbao in La Liga opener
He signed his first professional contract with Rennes in December and, in an attempt to tie down his future at the club a little longer, signed an extension this week until 2022.
Though a native of Angola, L’Equipe say Camavinga is in the process of becoming a French citizen with a view to playing for the national team.
Before Sunday’s win over PSG, Rennes manager Julien Stéphan warned of the exposure — and subsequent necessary protection — Camavinga will need.
“Exposed, because if he repeats the kind of performance that he achieved against Montpellier (1-0 on the opening day), he has chances to take a greater place in the team,” Stephan explained.
“But also protected, because he is not yet seventeen years old, he is still building himself on a muscular level and he has not experienced a Ligue 1 sequence of matches with the intensity it requires yet.”
Camavinga was on the receiving end of several cynical fouls from frustrated PSG players — many of who cost tens of million of dollars — who rarely got anywhere near the ball when it was at his feet.
He may be tall for a 16-year-old — standing at six foot — but Camavinga’s frame is slight, though it’s not a part of the game his boss worries about.
“He’s a very well-built person,” Stephan said after the physical match. “Who knows how to question himself, who knows how to do the right thing.
“He has a very interesting game, I’m going to have to deal with it. I will talk to him so that he can grow up in conditions of serenity.”
In Spain, Felix showed no signs of being weighed down by his hefty $142 million price tag as his dancing feet ran Getafe’s defense ragged.
Diego Simeone made the teenager the fifth most expensive player of all time in the summer but so far the Benfica academy product looks worth every penny.
After receiving man of the match recognition in the 7-3 pre-season demolition of city rival Real Madrid, Felix began his La Liga career with a performance that showcased his immense talent.
Atleti’s new signing Kieran Trippier crossed for Alvaro Morata to head home the opening goal, before Felix’s trickery — a run which started with a nutmeg inside his own half — won a penalty in the second period.
Morata failed to convert but Atletico held on for victory at the first attempt in the post-Antoine Griezmann era.
Kai shines for Bayer
Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz is by now accustomed to breaking records.
In 2016 he became the youngest debutant in Bundesliga history; in 2018 he became the youngest player to make 50 Bundesliga appearances; and last season he hit 17 goals to become the highest scoring teenager in a Bundesliga season.
After narrowly missing out on the German player of the year award to Marco Reus, reports suggested several of Europe’s major clubs would try and prize Bayer’s star possession away.
But the 20-year-old remains at the club and scored a delightful chip in Saturday’s opening-day 3-2 victory over Paderborn, becoming the second youngest player in history to reach 25 Bundesliga goals.
Big things are predicted of the youngster this season, who seems more than likely to eclipse his performances from last season.
Though this article may be about the stars of the future, a word has to go to 38-year-old Aritz Aduriz — the veteran striker who continues to defy Father Time.
Playing in his final season of professional football, he came off the bench for Athletic Club with two minutes remaining in the opening game of the La Liga season.
But two minutes were all he needed, scoring a stunning bicycle kick to inflict an opening-day defeat on Barcelona.