World Cup – Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi: the last dance, the last chance in Qatar

Since we wanted to counter them too much, we almost forgot to bring them together. Among the many similarities that unite Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi is a cultural complicity. In Portugal we sing Fado. In Argentina we dance tango. The music of melancholy, the dance of sadness. Melancholy, sadness: two qualifiers that perfectly symbolize the post-World Cup that awaits us.

For her it is a last dance. Though he hasn’t publicly admitted it yet, Cristiano Ronaldo, 37, knows the clock is ticking, even though he’s always wanted to fight those irretrievably moving hands. His club situation on the eve of his fifth World Cup adds a little more to the sense of a glorious past but a very uncertain future. Football has changed regardless of CR7 continuing to score. In Portugal, we now even dare to say that the Seleção could play better without him, a crime of lese-majeste that has hurt him.

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He declared it openly, as if he wanted to free himself from a burden. At 35, Lionel Messi is playing his last World Cup, possibly his last competition with an albiceleste that will leave him living in misery. But all that was before. Since 2021 and that Copa America national liberation, he’s not the same man, not the same player, not quite the same symbol. His international resume isn’t perfect yet, but at least he’ll never be without a major title again. And unlike his rival, he has a whole country chasing after him as his troops arrive in Qatar unbeaten after 36 games.

Records in sight, of course

2022 will therefore be the end of an adventure that began in 2006. Back then, Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo and Luis Figo played at their last World Cup. Sign of destiny, it was the first of a nascent duopoly. At that time, the young delusion Ronaldo and the shy soloist Messi were promised. They have become evident with each issue.

Lionel Messi at the 2006 World Cup

Photo credit: Getty Images

With the start of the competition, the two men join the very closed circle of record holders for participation in the World Cup. With them some very beautiful people: Antonio Carbajal (Mexico), Lothar Matthäus (Germany), Gianluigi Buffon (Italy) and Rafael Marquez (Mexico). Four men, two goalkeepers, two defenders. In this list, Messi and Ronaldo indicate: At their age, at their position, we are often overtaken by younger, stronger, more modern. Not the.

This unprecedented edition in Qatar could inflate their respective record tables even a little more. If he reaches the final, Lionel Messi could become the player with the most World Cup appearances in history and overtake Lothar Matthäus (25). If he scores, Cristiano Ronaldo would be the first player to score in five editions, notably overtaking a certain Pelé. The two can also, ultimately quite logically, become the player with the greatest time difference between the first and last World Cup goal (16 years between 2006 and 2022).

An inheritance thing

Records in shambles, certainly, but always that vacuum: they know their place in great history is secure, but they will always depend on that lack of a supreme title. Can they claim to be the greatest without winning the greatest? The question remains, the answers vary. One certainty: when Pelé is called the king, when Maradona has shaped his generation so much, when Zidane or Ronaldo come up for discussion, they all have the ultimate trophy hung. Fortunately, there are counterexamples, but the two men would probably prefer not to complete this list. Basically, this last dance looks like a last chance.

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