London, The World Cup stage is set for perhaps one final shootout between the two greatest soccer players of their generation and to many, the two greatest of all time.
Surely, this year’s tournament in Qatar presents Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo with one last chance to win the ultimate trophy, reports AP.
Even by their own remarkable powers of endurance, it is unlikely either will be around for the next tournament in 2026 when Messi will be 39 and Ronaldo 41.
Pele and Diego Maradona perhaps the only two players who can still challenge the supremacy of Messi and Ronaldo in the history books earned their reputations from their achievements on this stage.
Pele won the trophy three times with Brazil, while Maradona led Argentina to the title in 1986 with a performance of such individual brilliance that it left an indelible mark on the tournament.
For all their genius, Argentina’s Messi and Portugal’s Ronaldo have yet to emulate the two men they have spent their careers trying to surpass.
These are the final stages of their storied careers, which have seen them share 12 Ballon d’Or awards, nine Champions League titles, 18 league titles and plenty of other accolades. But to add the World Cup would be the ultimate at a time when both players are seeing their powers wane.
“I’m lucky to be able to be at this World Cup at 35 years old,” the Argentine told DirectTV in October. “After this World Cup, we will see what could happen with my career.”
Meanwhile, Ronaldo heads to Qatar with his career in disarray after failing to secure a move away from Manchester United and being dropped by manager Erik ten Hag.
Last month, he was dropped from the squad and had to train apart from the first team as punishment for refusing to come on as a substitute against Tottenham.
At this point, it’s impossible to judge what condition he might be in mentally or physically at the World Cup.
Likewise, it’s impossible to rule out a player who has repeatedly set new standards even into the twilight of his playing days. He recently scored his 700th career club goal.
Of the great rivals, Messi appears to have the edge right now. Even if he may not have replicated his best years at Barcelona since joining Paris Saint-Germain, he is proving more influential in his second season in France, with the goals flowing once again.
Source: Bahrain News Agency