Like many other World Cups, Qatar 2022 will be the last World Cup for a few superstars in world football. However, Qatar 2022 will be different as some of the biggest and most marketable names in the past few decades could be making their last international bow for their nations at the global showpiece.
The world has witnessed the biggest and the most dominant football rivalry in the past decade and half in this generation and both superstars involved in that rivalry could be making their last international bow at the Qatar 2022 World Cup.
With that realisation, here are five of the biggest names who could be playing their last world cups and possibly last international games for their nations at Qatar 2022.
One half of the most dominant duo in football in the past decade and half, Cristiano Ronaldo has declared that he expects Qatar 2022 World Cup to be his last international tournament.
In an interview, Ronaldo said: ”Very good, for me. I expect Qatar could be my final World Cup’’.
The 37-year-old is the greatest goalscorer in the modern game and his goals record is only rivalled by Brazil legend Pele in football history.
He is also the most prolific goalscorer in the history of international football, having broken the all-time goals record in the European Championship, European World Cup qualifiers, and the record for the most international goals.
Ronaldo and Portugal still have to navigate the European World Cup qualifiers playoffs but he will surely be looking to add to his seven World Cup goals and get his tally into double figures to end on a high.
His competitive nature could also see him aim for Miroslav Klose’s record of 16 world cup goals, as he is only nine goals away from that record.
The second half of football’s most dominant duo, Lionel Messi, could also be taking part in his final World Cup in Qatar 2022.
Football is set for a new era after Qatar as the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, who came agonisingly close to winning the tournament in 2014, will be going at it for what could be a last time.
After lifting a first international trophy in 2021, Messi will want to add the most prestigious trophy of all to complete an extraordinary career and get one more over his eternal rival, Ronaldo.
Messi was named the best player of the 2014 World Cup which Argentina lost to Germany, and it would not be a wise bet to put another incredible campaign past the Argentina captain.
The 40-year-old icon does not plan to stop soon after making a sensational return to international football in 2020 for the sole aim of participating at Euro 2020 and Qatar 2022.
He unfortunately missed out on the Euro 2020 tournament due to injury but has since returned to the Sweden national team dynamics with his sights set on Qatar.
If Sweden qualifies and he is selected for the tournament, he will break quite a few records including being the oldest outfield player at the tournament and the only player to play in two World Cups 20 years apart (2002 and 2022).
The only player to break the Messi-Ronaldo duopoly on the Ballon d’Or since Ronaldo first won the award in 2008, Luka Modric, is another legend of the game who will be hanging up his international boots after Qatar 2022.
Modric’s performances at the 2018 World Cup in Russia earned him the Golden Ball Award at the tournament and also counted greatly towards his unprecedented 2018 Ballon d’Or win.
The most-capped player for the Croatian national team will be looking to better his runners-up finish from the 2018 World Cup and win the world title for his country come November 2022.
Despite being the youngest on this list, Neymar has astonishingly stated that he would be retiring from the World Cup after the Qatar 2022 World Cup.
The 30-year-old made this statement in an interview with DAZN last year. “I think it’s my last World Cup. I see it as my last because I don’t know if I have the strength of mind to deal with football anymore,” he said.
“So I’ll do everything to turn up well, do everything to win with my country, to realize my greatest dream since I was little. And I hope I can do it.”
Neymar is Brazil’s most important player in recent times and his performance will be crucial to their chances of lifting a record-extending sixth FIFA World Cup. The 30-year-old is already in the conversation of Brazilian greats and a win at Qatar 2022 will cement that legacy.