Football

11 star footballers playing their last World Cup

Sergio Ramos
Sergio Ramos. Photo/Marca
  • 2022 World Cup in Qatar is the final game for some legends of modern football
  • It will be Messi’s last World Cup, as well as Ronaldo’s
  • Most star players will be in their 40s

The 2022 World Cup in Qatar could be the final game for some legends of modern football.

Messi and Ronaldo may have one more chance to win a major trophy, but they’re not the only great players who could be playing in their last World Cup.

Some great players from France, Spain, Germany, Brazil, and Belgium will retire after Qatar. These 11 legends deserve one last bow on the world’s grandest stage.

LIONEL MESSI

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi. Photo/Eurosport

It appears that 2022 World Cup in Qatar will be the great Argentine’s last chance to win the World Cup with his national side before he retires from the sport.

After coming so close in Brazil in 2014, Jorge Sampaoli’s Argentina team looked like a disorganized mess in Russia two years later.

All of Argentina’s goals in the 2021 Copa America were directly contributed to by him, and he finished as the tournament’s top scorer and assister. If they can just replicate that success in Qatar, they might just make it.

CRISTIANO RONALDO

Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo in action for Manchester United. Photo/ CNN

Even after Ronaldo’s debut in 2004, Portugal only qualified for six major tournaments. After that, he helped them win 10 consecutive titles (5 World Cups and 5 European Championships) while scoring an incredible 117 goals in just 189 games.

It’s a dirty little secret, but the all-time international football goal-scoring leader might be slowing down. Even in Portugal, where he is justifiably worshipped as a deity, there are rumblings this season that Ronaldo is actually holding the team back more than helping.

LUKA MODRIC

Because of his outstanding play in 2018, Modric became the first player to win the Ballon d’Or since 2007. This was due to his contributions to Croatia’s unlikely run to the 2018 World Cup final.

The four-time champion proved he still got it by playing a crucial role in Real Madrid’s comeback triumph over PSG in the Champions League.

KARIM BENZEMA

Karim Benzema

Karim Benzema in action for Real Madrid. Photo/ NBC News,

At age 34, Benzema has already reached his full potential. Just look at how he demolished PSG with that hat trick or led Madrid to the La Liga and Champions League titles last season.

It’s as if he’s trying to make up for a lost time after being overshadowed by Ronaldo for so long and being banished from the France camp.  After missing out on France’s 2018 World Cup victory, he’s back with the team and eager to claim the only major honour for which he has yet to compete in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

SERGIO RAMOS

Although he hasn’t officially retired from international play, Sergio Ramos isn’t likely to feature in Luis Enrique’s plans for Qatar. Ramos was left off of Spain’s Euro 2020 team and has only started two league games in the past calendar year.

With his departure, he becomes the lone survivor from Spain’s World Cup-winning team of 2010. He was on the cusp of becoming one of the world’s top midfielders. Now 34 years old, he’s well into his twilight years as a shrewd veteran.

THIAGO SILVA

Even though he’ll be 38 when during the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, he’ll still be in charge of Brazil’s defence. If you ask any Chelsea supporter, they will tell you that he is still an elite-level defender.

ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI

When we look at the odds, Lewandowski has the best chance of any player on our list to surprise us at the 2026 World Cup. He’ll be 37 by then, but given his current fitness level and how deadly he still is in front of goal, it’s hard to imagine him not following in Ronaldo’s footsteps and playing into his late 30s.

MANUEL NEUER

Neuer, one of the best and most decorated keepers in history, led Bayern to their 10th straight Bundesliga title last season, including two trebles.

He will also be hoping to lead Germany to a second World Cup victory after playing a key role in their humiliating exit from the 2018 tournament in the group stage. But the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will be his last.

EDEN HAZARD

Unfortunately, it seems quite unlikely that Hazard, the current captain, will still be excellent by the time the tournament in the United States, Mexico, and Canada begins with its 48 participating teams.

He may only be 31 years old, but three years of injury torment at Real Madrid have clearly taken their toll. It would be great if he could turn back the clock and regain his Chelsea form this season.

EDINSON CAVANI AND LUIS SUAREZ

Both attackers rose in 2010 when they helped Golden Boot winner Diego Forlan and Uruguay get deep into the World Cup by performing above expectations.

Twelve years later, Suarez and Cavani have reached the Forlan veteran stage. They’ve qualified for four straight World Cups, but 2022 will be their last. They have had extremely fruitful and successful club careers at some of Europe’s most prestigious clubs over that time.

After leading Uruguay to victory at the 2011 Copa America, Suarez and Cavani are now the country’s all-time leading scorers (Suarez with 55 goals and Cavani with 46), and the World Cup is the only remaining major competition.

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