sport news From Messi to Ronaldo, the big names that could wave goodbye to the World Cup ... trends now

sport news From Messi to Ronaldo, the big names that could wave goodbye to the World Cup ... trends now
sport news From Messi to Ronaldo, the big names that could wave goodbye to the World Cup ... trends now

sport news From Messi to Ronaldo, the big names that could wave goodbye to the World Cup ... trends now

This winter's World Cup may well provide the perfect backdrop for a host of players to wave a graceful goodbye to the greatest tournament of them all. 

One final hurrah, and one final glistening trophy.

That tantalising prospect is what is at stake in Qatar, and the game's greatest and oldest players will want to grab it with both hands to taste glory once again.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo will likely have one final chance to lift the coveted trophy that has evaded them, while other iconic names will bow out, too.

With superstars from footballing institutions like Germany, France, Spain, Brazil, Belgium and many others all competing, here are the 10 players who may step away.

The World Cup later this year may be the final chance at the trophy for a host of superstars

The World Cup later this year may be the final chance at the trophy for a host of superstars

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

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

CRISTIANO RONALDO (PORTUGAL)

Caps: 189 

Goals: 117

The evergreen Cristiano Ronaldo has insisted that he will keep playing as long as he feels he remains in shape, saying: 'I'm the one in charge [of my career], full stop.

'A lot of people ask this question. I'm the one who will decide my future. If I feel like playing more, I play and if I don't feel like playing, I don't play.'

If anyone could light up a World Cup aged 41, it would be Ronaldo. That is precisely the age he would be at the 2026 edition, but even that may be a bridge too far.

Before Ronaldo made his international debut for Portugal in 2004, his country had only qualified for six major tournaments. With him, they have reached 10 in a row.

That includes five World Cups and five European Championships - and, while defying his doubters and advancing age at every turn, has scored 117 goals in 189 matches. 

Cristiano Ronaldo is unlikely to light up 2026 at the age of 41, so will want success this winter

Cristiano Ronaldo is unlikely to light up 2026 at the age of 41, so will want success this winter

ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI (POLAND)

Caps: 132

Goals: 76 

Out of anyone above the age of 30, Robert Lewandowski appears the likeliest to play on until the 2026 World Cup. Then, he will be 37, but he is in peak physical shape.

Just like Ronaldo, Lewandowski has stayed at the top of his game and looked after himself, meaning he is more than capable of turning out for Poland into the future. 

He is also his country's undisputed talisman. The frontman is their captain, their leading appearance maker and, more importantly, their all-time top scorer. 

Surprisingly, he has never netted at the World Cup, and will want to put that right.

Qualifying for the tournament in four years time will be no mean feat but first, Lewandowski will have his sights set firmly on leading Poland to success this winter.

Robert Lewandowski has never scored at the World Cup, and will want to put that record right

Robert Lewandowski has never scored at the World Cup, and will want to put that record right

THIAGO SILVA (BRAZIL)

Caps: 107

Goals:

Brazil last won the World Cup in 2002, but there is a real buzz and optimism about them this year. Thiago Silva, their formidable centre back, will be crucial to this. 

He will be 38 by the time Qatar rolls around, but it is likely he will once again take up his usual spot in his side's backline. His Rolls Royce-like nature will see to that.

Silva has been keen to insist he is taking his career one season at a time, saying: 'We know that our fitness is not the same of two, three years ago. The time to recover between matches changes a lot. But I will continue to prepare to reach my dreams. 

'The World Cup is still pending... it is impossible not to think of the World Cup.'

The experienced defender is also keen to play into his 40s, and it would be no surprise if he surpasses the milestone and adds to his 107 international caps to date.

Thiago Silva will be crucial to Brazil's hopes of finally claiming a first World Cup since 2002

Thiago Silva will be crucial to Brazil's hopes of finally claiming a first World Cup since 2002

LIONEL MESSI (ARGENTINA)

Caps: 162

Goals: 86

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

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

At the heart of it all, 35-year-old Messi has flourished, and he even played a role in all of his country's Copa America goals. Now, can we repeat those heroics in Qatar?

'I don't know what I will do after the World Cup. I am thinking about what is coming,' he admitted. 'After Qatar, I will have to reassess many things.'

There lies a big question mark over what is in store for him after the winter period, then, but some have predicted he will choose to gracefully hang up his boots. 

Lionel Messi has never won the showpiece, and may well hang up his boots after Qatar

Lionel Messi has never won the showpiece, and may well hang up his boots after Qatar

LUIS SUAREZ

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