Besides Ronaldo and Messi, a host of stars including Neymar Jr, may not participate in the next World Cup in 2026 in North America.
The last dance: Top stars playing their final FIFA World Cup
It is an end of a golden era of global sports stars including Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in a last attempt at the world crown, the only missing piece of glory in their historical achievements in football history.
Here are the top stars who would be having their last dance.
CRISTIANO RONALDO (Portugal)
Pooled in Group H alongside Uruguay, South Korea, and Ghana, Portugal will hope to give their star man a befitting send off at the grand stage and it does not get better than aiming for the ultimate prize. The Manchester United star has endured a tough beginning of the summer at the club and will look unto making amends and showing the world his true brilliance and excellence. Ronaldo is an all-time top-scorer in men’s international soccer with 117 in 191 appearances.
LIONEL MESSI (Argentina)
One of football’s greatest, Lionel Messi holds Argentina’s hopes for world glory. Following his admission that he will retire from international football after the World Cup, several Argentine teammates including Manchester United’s Martinez swore “to go to war for Messi to win the World Cup”.
In an interview with Star+, Messi admitted saying: “Is it my last World Cup? Yes, surely yes, surely yes. I am counting down the days until the World Cup. There is a bit of anxiety and nerves at the same time. Wanting it to be now and the nerves that were already there, what is going to happen." he said.
“On the one hand, we can’t wait for it to arrive and on the other hand, we’re scared of wanting it to go well,” he added.
NEYMAR JR (Brazil)
Neymar is preparing to leave the Brazilian national team at the end of the year, and is expected to play his final international tournament in Qatar at the 2022 World Cup. Neymar is second on Brazil's all-time top goalscorers' list with 74 goals, and has earned 119 appearances.
"I think it (2022) will be my last World Cup," Neymar said. "I am facing it like the last World Cup because I don't know whether I will be able to, mentally, endure more soccer”, he said in the documentary, Neymar & The Line Of Kings, produced by DAZN.
"I will do everything possible to get there very well. I will do all I can to win it with my country and realize my dream, the biggest since my boyhood."
ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI (Poland)
Eclipsed by Ronaldo and Messi's dominance, Lewandowski quietly kept scoring goals for Borussia Dortmund, then Bayern Munich, where he racked up 312 goals in 384 appearances before his recent switch to Barcelona. Lewandowski has 76 goals in 134 appearances for Poland but is yet to score at the World Cup.
LUIS SUÁREZ (Uruguay)
Uruguay’s all-time leading scorer with 68 goals, the 35-year-old Suárez is set to play his fourth World Cup tournament. He will meet Barcelona rival Ronaldo and the Ghana national team baying for revenge for their controversial elimination at the 2010 World Cup when he, Suarez caught the ball at stoppage time which could have guaranteed the Black Stars a first-ever semi-final place for an African team.
LUKA MODRIĆ (Croatia)
The 37-year-old Modrić is one of those players who seems to be getting better with age. Although Croatia lost to France in that final four years ago, Modrić was still awarded the Golden Ball for the best player at the tournament. This will be his fifth World Cup tournament.
DANI ALVES (Brazil)
Dani Alves missed the previous World Cup due to injury and will be looking to end on a high together with Neymar Jr.
MANUEL NEUER (Germany)
The 36-year-old Neuer is undoubtedly one of the best goalkeepers to have emerged from Germany, a country that has been spoiled with talent over the years with the likes of Oliver Kahn, Jens Lehman, Harald Schumacher and Sepp Maier.
THOMAS MÜLLER (Germany)
The 33-year-old Müller scored five goals at the 2010 World Cup and has been almost ever-present for Germany and Bayern Munich. A ruthless goal-poacher with fantastic positioning in front of goal, he will be a star to watch.