From Messi to Ronaldo, Big Names Could Say Goodbye to This Year’s World Cup

This winter’s World Cup may provide the perfect backdrop for many players to bid farewell to the biggest tournament of all time.

One last one, and one last shiny trophy.

That exciting prospect is what is at stake in Qatar, and the big and old players of the game will want to grab it with both hands to taste glory again.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo will have one last chance to lift the trophy that has eluded them, while other famous names will bow out.

With stars competing from football powerhouses such as Germany, France, Spain, Brazil, Belgium and many more, here are 10 players who could make the cut.

The World Cup later this year may be the last chance for the title for many stars

France won the tournament in 2018, and their hopes have been bolstered by Karim Benzema


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Cristiano Ronaldo has insisted that he will continue to play as long as he feels in good shape, he said: ‘I am in charge. [of my career]stop.

‘Many people ask this question. I will decide my future. If I like to play a lot, I play and if I don’t like to play, I don’t play.’

If anyone can light up the World Cup at the age of 41, it would be Ronaldo. That’s exactly the age he’ll be in the 2026 version, but even that might be a bridge too far.

Before Ronaldo made his international debut for Portugal in 2004, his country had qualified for just six major tournaments. He has also reached 10 in a row.

That includes five World Cups and five European Championships – and, while defying his naysayers and advancing age all the time, he has scored 117 goals in 189 games.

Cristiano Ronaldo is unlikely to light up 2026 at the age of 41, so he will be looking for success this winter.


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For anyone over the age of 30, Robert Lewandowski seems keen to play until the 2026 World Cup. After that, he will be 37 years old, but he is in excellent physical condition.

Like Ronaldo, Lewandowski has stayed at the top of his game and taken care of himself, meaning he has the potential to move to Poland in the future.

He is also the undisputed charm of his country. The forward is their captain, their leading appearance maker and, most importantly, their all-time leading goalscorer.

Surprisingly, he has never scored in a World Cup, and he will want to rectify that.

Qualifying for this tournament in four years will not be a bad thing but first, Lewandowski will be determined to lead Poland to success this winter.

Robert Lewandowski has never scored a goal in the World Cup, and he will want to set that record straight


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Brazil last won the World Cup in 2002, but there is real buzz and hope about it this year. Thiago Silva, their fearsome defender, will be crucial in this regard.

He will be 38 by the time Qatar rolls around, but he is likely to return to his usual place in the full-back. His Rolls Royce-like nature will see to that.

Silva was keen to emphasize that he is taking his job one season at a time, saying: ‘We know our fitness is not the same as two, three years ago. The recovery time between matches varies greatly. But I will continue to prepare myself to achieve my dreams.

‘The World Cup is still waiting…it’s impossible not to think about the World Cup.’

The experienced defender is also set to play into his 40s, and it would not be a surprise if he surpasses the milestone and adds to his 107 international caps to date.

Thiago Silva will be key to Brazil’s hopes of finally winning the World Cup for the first time since 2002.


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It took some time but Lionel Messi finally won his first piece of silverware with Argentina last summer in the Copa America. The World Cup may be the second, and last.

They endured a close shave in Brazil in 2014 but went on to crash out in Russia four years ago in disastrous fashion. Since then, they have found the perfect balance.

At the heart of it all, 35-year-old Messi has flourished, even taking part in every goal for his country in the Copa America. Now, can we repeat those heroes in Qatar?

‘I don’t know what I will do after the World Cup. I’m thinking about next time,’ he admitted. ‘After Qatar, I will have to review many things.’

There is a big question mark as to what awaits him after the winter season, but some have predicted that he will choose to hang up his boots for good.

Lionel Messi has never won a showpiece, and he may hang up his boots after Qatar


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Luis Suarez is one of the best strikers of his generation, and he has helped turn Uruguay into a formidable force in international football with his prolific career.

Now 35 years old, the World Cup in Qatar may be his last. As determined as ever, the veteran will want to bow out on the big stage with a bang.

With him leading the way, Uruguay reached the semi-finals, quarter-finals and a place in the last 16, beating Argentina and drawing level with giants Brazil.

They also won the Copa America, and Suarez will be aiming for another album to add to his collection, although that is an unlikely dream.

He has played 132 games so far, and has scored an impressive 68 goals.

Luis Suarez has fired Uruguay to victory on numerous occasions, and he will be keen to impress again


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There have been reports that he will call time on his international career, but Luka Modric continues to play for Croatia, dropping jaws and wowing fans wherever he goes.

He was made to endure grief at the 2018 World Cup after his country lost to France in a thrilling final, and he was at the heart of their efforts at the tournament.

Modric was named Player of the Tournament and this year, he will aim to be even better. That was very important as this type may be the last.

The maestro is 36 years old and, despite his metronomic nature, will eventually slow down.

But his skills are still as good as ever, just look at his performances for Real Madrid in the Champions League. A World Cup medal will cap off his incredible evening.

Luka Modric is no stranger to dropping jaws and now he will want to go one better than 2018


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He may have been kicked out of the international fold by Joachim Low in 2019, but Thomas Muller came back with a vengeance and is enjoying another World Cup win.

His absence, along with Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng also being excluded, raised eyebrows, and Muller who is one of the best players ever to play in Germany.

Low’s successor, Hansi Flick, would not make the same mistake. Muller was recalled, and soon assumed his prominent role in the Die Mannschaft system.

Speaking after Flick took over, the striker said he was not willing to hang his country, so he will play in Qatar.

The next tournament, when Muller is 36 years old, may be a step too far, so he will be looking for success this year.

Thomas Muller endured grief at the last World Cup, but he is set to play in Germany again


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Anyone who says Karim Benzema has peaked at the age of 34 may have a point.

This season, he took Real Madrid to the Champions League final almost single-handedly, and he took Paris Saint-Germain apart with a stunning hat-trick.

There is a feeling that he is making up for lost time after his exile from France and, having missed the 2018 World Cup, he will be looking to impress this winter.

France, of course, is the reigning champion. Their victory would make them the first team to win back-to-back tournaments since Brazil in 1962.

Benzema will be crucial in their quest to do just that, and the striker has said that making Les Blues favorites again this year is ‘obligatory’.

Benzema could have made it to 34, and will be key to Les Blues’ shot at the world cup.


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Interestingly, Edinson Cavani grew up just streets away from his compatriot Luis Suarez.

Over the years, the pair have teamed up well with Uruguay, although their age and Cavani’s spotty injury record may have kept them apart.

Even with their veterans playing, they have managed to escape the World Cup qualifiers, and they will need to improve throughout Qatar.

Cavani, now 35, has attracted many skeptics during his time at Manchester United, but his record of 54 goals in 130 games so far speaks for itself.

He may not be the hunter of old, but his goals will be important to his country as well.

Edinson Cavani, together with Suarez, has led for many years in his country, but he is a mess.


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The old guard is starting to fade in Germany, and Manuel Neuer can be counted among them. He looks like he will leave after this World Cup.

He will be 40 at the next tournament and, although goalkeepers usually hit their best into their late 30s, competing at that level will be difficult.

Neuer has been an example for his country over the years, and he deserves a respectful bow. Winning the World Cup for the last time would be the end of the legend.

In the end, all was not well for Die Mannschaft, however. They were eliminated in the group stage, and Neuer was made to look painfully mediocre.

Revenge may be on his mind at this point. He is undeniably one of the best ball stoppers in the sport, and he will want to prove that to the world once again.

Manuel Neuer won the World Cup in 2014, but he will be 40 years old when the next edition is held.

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