Messi and Ronaldo in Qatar for their twilight and their first star

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Absolute masters of football for almost twenty years, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are preparing to play their fifth and probably last World Cup in Qatar. The opportunity for them to raise the only trophy missing from their collection and, why not, offer a definitive anthology duel to football lovers.

For a long time they left only crumbs for other footballers. Rivals, they reigned over football and the 2010s. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are preparing to play in what will most likely be their last World Cup at 35 and 37 respectively. Against this backdrop, their performances will necessarily be scrutinized as they look to seize the opportunity to lift the last trophy that has stood them for their entire long career.

The statistics of these would make anyone envious: twelve Golden Balls in total, nine Champions League, 1,604 goals and 581 assists. Something to make your head spin. Their rivalry and their duels have made lovers of the “beautiful game” dream more than once.

>> Also read: The World Cup in Qatar, a world of “excess”

“Messi and Ronaldo have totally different styles, they are Olivier Aton and Mark Landers (the great rivals of the cartoon Olive and Tom, ed). Loving one often means hating the other”, explained Alexandre Seban, author of ‘Messi vs Ronaldo: who is better off?’ (Éd. Solar), in 2021 at France 24.

Ronaldo in turmoil

However, the two champions have been declining for several years. It has been two years since either man appeared in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, football’s premier club competition. Worse: Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t even play in the last edition, his club, Manchester United, simply qualified for the Europa League.

At 37, the Portuguese is going through the most complicated season of his career. Since August, the five-time Ballon d’Or player has been used very little by the new coach of the Red Devils, the Dutchman Erik ten Hag, and has even been sanctioned for refusing to come on as a substitute. Since the start of the season, he has only scored three small goals. At the height of his career, he was wearing so much every week!

With the Seleçao, his last goals date back to last June, a brace in the victory against Switzerland in the League of Nations (4-0), followed by three empty games for the record holder of international scorers (117 goals in 191 games). .

The instability caused by Ronaldo’s situation has only increased doubts about Portugal’s ability to play a good tournament.

“We’re all used to dealing with great pressure, I don’t think it brings pressure to anyone anymore,” playmaker Joao Mario wanted to reassure at a press conference on Tuesday.

“Total and absolute concentration on the work of the national team. A united group, towards a single goal: to make the dream of all Portuguese come true!” promised Ronaldo on social media.

We would see a repeat of the coup of 2016, when Portugal was the unexpected winner of the Euro in France, carried by its star, despite a workforce still modest compared to the current army. On an individual level, Cristiano’s challenge will also be to score a goal to become the only player in history to score in 5 World Cup editions.

Messi, the last splendor?

On Messi’s side things are better. The 2021-2022 season, marked by his exile at PSG – only the second club of his career after FC Barcelona – saw “Pulga” struggle to find his place in the Paris workforce. We have to believe that the new coach Christophe Galthier has found the formula: the MNM – nickname of the Parisian trident Messi – Neymar – Mbappé – shines with a thousand lights: 46 goals and 31 assists for the three friends. With 12 goals and 14 assists for Messi looks more like the constructor.

Above all, Leo, 35, appeared sharp and inspired as rarely. It must be said that the number 10 and Argentina captain has his eye on the trophy, the one that was missing from his incredible collection of 41 titles.

He can believe it. Especially since he finally won a win with Albiceleste. Indeed, after a world final lost in the 2014 final against Germany (1-0 ap) and two Copa America finals lost against Chile (2014/2015), the elf has finally won a competition with his national team: the Copa America 2021.

Her Argentina is even unbeaten in 35 games and she believes in her star, which would be the third on her shirt after 1978 and 1986 and could finally make Messi equal to Diego Maradona in the Argentines’ mind.

Cristiano Ronald and Lionel Messi are not, however, the only two giants of football who are probably playing their last World Cup. Their great rival for the years 2020 and 201, Lewandosky, is likely to have his last world adventure with Poland in Qatar. Ballon d’Or 2022 Karim Benzema will try to lead France to a second consecutive victory. Sergio Ramos, who is also playing in his fifth World Cup, has to supervise the very young Spanish selection.

However, it seems that the best cuts are made in old pots!

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