Ronaldo, Messi, Benzema… For these legends, it’s time for the last chance

The big day is near, the last time too. Beyond the prestige represented by a victory in the World Cup, there will certainly be another challenge for some selections involved in this World Cup that starts on November 20. Offering one of its icons the first star on the national jersey. Players who marked their era and piled up trophies, except for the most expected of them. And for whom the opportunity should never come again after this 2022 edition. Overview of the legends of this round ball, missing the highest trophy.

Lionel Messi, a return to form and a big reward?

He is one of the greatest players of all time. The one who revolutionized the art of handling the ball and tormented almost every defense he came across. Almost 800 career goals, four Champions Leagues, 41 trophies in total but…no World Cup to his credit. “La pulga” was often unhappy with his selection as he had to wait until the summer of 2021 to win the Copa America, his very first major title in Argentina.

In Qatar, Messi (35) will play his fifth World Cup. Surely his last. “My last World Cup? Maybe so,” he told ESPN in early October. Eliminated in the quarter-finals in 2006 and 2010, finalist in 2014 and stopped 8th by the Blues in 2018, the Argentinian will therefore have the last chance to climb the roof of the world in a month. Brilliant with PSG since the start of the season, the former Barcelona player regained full possession of his treasures after a very delicate exercise in 2021-2022. And it represents an asset of choice for an Argentine selection that will undoubtedly have a shot at the gulf emirate.

Lionel Messi, in a friendly match against Jamaica on September 27
Andres Kudacki/AFP

Cristiano Ronaldo, the apotheosis in sadness?

He will also have his place in the pantheon of this sport. Less successful than his Argentine rival (32 trophies), he still has five Golden Balls and 818 career goals. Revealed his aura in the world of football and his status as a dominant player for almost 20 years. European champion in 2016 with Portugal, his World Cup career has been much different. His best result dates back to 2006 and was a losing semi-final against… France. Eliminated in the round of 16 in 2010 and 2018, Cristiano Ronaldo even pulled out of the group stages at the Brazilian World Cup in 2014.

If the Seleção will come to Qatar with an attractive workforce, the state of form of the main interested party is a concern. This season, CR7 is swimming in sadness with his Manchester United club. Disappointing on and off the field, he was unable to pull his team together and the Red Devils regularly put on a better face when he was not on the pitch. But despite the brutality of the report, it is very dangerous to bury a man with 117 selection goals so quickly. In the Gulf, he will be keen to offer himself one last stand and remind the football world that the weight of the years has not erased his thirst for the title.

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Cristiano Ronaldo is looking for a world title with Portugal
Cristina Quicler/AFP

Neymar, the main asset of a Brazil in reconquest mode

Nor should he be present at the big world rally in 2026. “I think this is my last World Cup. I don’t know if I have the mental strength to continue with football,” he said. in October 2021 in the documentary Neymar Jr and the Line of Kingsavailable on the DAZN streaming platform.

At that time, the Brazilian oscillated between injuries and any benefits in the PSG jersey. Having returned to form this season (11 goals in 13 Ligue 1 games), his physical condition remains an eternal question mark and the Qatari meeting is likely to be his last. It is enough to increase his motivation, especially since the Seleção appears to be a serious candidate for the top title. A trophy that he hasn’t lifted in 20 years.

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Neymar will be the guide of the Seleção in this Qatari world
Carl De Souza/AFP

Dani Alves, the veteran wants to come full circle

At 39, he will become the oldest Brazilian to play in the World Cup finals. Another record for one who in 2021 became the most successful player in history with 43 trophies. FC Barcelona’s emblematic right-back between 2008 and 2016, passed on by Paris Saint-Germain (2017-2019), the Juazeiro-born refused to hang up his crampons. In Qatar, however, Dani Alves will have to be content with his role as an understudy, but the respect he commands and the good humor he shares represent two important assets in a group that has nothing but final success. For Dani Alves, it’s hard to dream of a better ending.

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Dani Alves, the veteran of the Brazilian selection
Douglas Magno/AFP

Karim Benzema, after the personal grail, the highest title?

He reached the peak of his career in 2022. The ultimate success on a personal level. The winner of the last Ballon d’Or, Karim Benzema (35) arrived in Qatar in the costume of the best player on the planet. A dress of light that he intends to wear under the tunic that is on the side of the rooster.

In the event of a final victory, Karim Benzema will return from afar. Long criticized for his performance in blue and then banned for six years on extra-sporting business funds, the Lyonnais’ history with the French team has long been troubled. Remembered by the surprise of all Didier Deschamps to compete in Euro 2020, he managed to convince the most skeptical.

At 35 years old and despite an impeccable lifestyle and an impressive work ethic, it is hard to imagine him continuing until 2026. The last chance then to lift the most prestigious trophies and surely record his reconciliation with the French citizen.

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It is in a costume of the best player in the world that Karim Benzema will fly to Qatar
Frank Fife/AFP

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