Lionel Messi’s World Cup journey is coming to a close. On Thursday, the Argentine legend told Star Plus that the tournament in Qatar next month will be his last.
“I’m nervous and anxious at the same moment,” Messi admitted. “This is the final one.”
At 35, Messi choosing not to hold out for the 2026 World Cup comes as little surprise. But the announcement further cements the idea that this year’s tournament will mark the end of an era. In addition to Messi, Qatar 2022 will probably be the last World Cup for fellow megastars Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) and Neymar (Brazil), and could be the finale for several more marquee names.
Like Messi, Ronaldo is simply running out of time. Two years older than Messi, the Manchester United forward is likely to bow out of the world’s biggest competition at the same time. The two players have been compared and contrasted throughout their sterling careers, with both making their World Cup debuts in 2006. Neither has lifted a World Cup trophy, but Ronaldo captured the Euro 2016 title and Messi won the Copa America last year.
As far back as 2016, Ronaldo said he expected the 2022 World Cup to be his last.
“I expect Qatar could be my final World Cup,” he told beIN Sports at the time. “I often go on holidays there, to Qatar as well as Dubai. I am happy because for sure it will be last international tournament.”
Ronaldo recently changed his tune, saying in September that he hopes to represent Portugal in Qatar and the 2024 European Championship.
While Argentina and Portugal are expected to be title contenders this year, the top-ranked team and betting favorite is Brazil. Neymar, the 30-year-old wonder who plays alongside Messi at Paris Saint-Germain, stands at the center of Brazilian hopes.
In October 2021, Neymar told a documentary crew that Qatar will probably be his swan song.
“I think it’s [Qatar for] my last World Cup,” Neymar said in the DAZN documentary, “Neymar Jr. and the Line of Kings.” “I see it as my last because I don’t know if I have the strength of mind to deal with football anymore. 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.”