The FIFA World Cup is often a last hurrah for many of the world’s finest players. The stage for an emotional goodbye to world football.
This summer’s World Cup in Russia is no different, as several countries attempt to send off their legends in winning fashion.
Although one of the biggest legends still plying their trade, Gianluigi Buffon, won’t get a final farewell at World Cup, there are a number of footballing greats who might.
8. Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernández
The longtime leader of Mexico’s attack, Chicharito turns 30 at the start of this summer. The prolific poacher has scored an impressive 49 goals in 99 caps, making him Mexico’s all-time leading scorer.
Despite his storied history with El Tri, he’s fallen a bit out of form and favour this year with new club West Ham. Chicharito’s slowing form and age won’t see him fall out of contention for a spot in this year’s World Cup team, but it’s certainly hard to imagine him being around in four year’s time.
7. Olivier Giroud
Chelsea’s new striker Olivier Giroud will likely be waving goodbye to his international duty this summer, as he could become a casualty of the vast young French talent on the rise. The youngster pictured above could help bring about Giroud’s international retirement, as Kylian Mbappe is highly touted as the future of the French attack.
With Alexandre Lacazatte, Anthony Martial, and Antoine Griezmann all also vying for a place in the French forward line, it seems unlikely that the 31 year-old Giroud will still be playing for Les Bleus in 2022.
6. Joe Hart
Although he may not be first choice, Joe Hart was recently named as part of Gareth Southgate’s England squad for friendlies against Netherlands and Italy. While this isn’t a confirmation of his spot on the plane to Russia, it is more than likely that the former Manchester City man will be in England’s World Cup squad.
Hart hasn’t been in the best form this year, but neither have Jordan Pickford and Jack Butland, who have both had their fair share of poor performances as well. Hart could add a veteran presence in goal this summer, in what will almost certainly be his last World Cup.
5. Edinson Cavani
Edinson Cavani and Luis Suárez are the typical duo up top for Uruguay, forming quite the fearsome strike partnership. The PSG man is set to win his 100th international cap this year, which certainly goes well with his 40 goals for the national team.
The 31-year-old Cavani will be well aware that this summer’s World Cup could be his last, so he will be hoping to go out in a winning style.
4. Dani Alves
Brazil’s captain and perennial right back, Dani Alves turns 35 shortly before the World Cup kicks off this summer. Despite his age, Alves remains one of the world’s best right backs, playing for Paris Saint-Germain alongside international team mate Thiago Silva.
Alves has been capped an outstanding 105 times, tied for third most in Brazilian football history. The Seleção have been tipped as one of the favourites this summer, and Alves will surely be looking for his elusive World Cup title in his final appearance at the World Cup.
3. Andrés Iniesta
A legend in every sense of the word, Andrés Iniesta will likely play in his final World Cup for Spain this summer. The ageing star has had more than his fair share of astonishing World Cup moments, famously scoring the winner against Netherlands in the 2010 World Cup Final.
Even with his storied career, Iniesta isn’t guaranteed a spot in the first XI in Russia. The 33-year-old could see his midfield spot go to a variety of younger options, and his fitness levels surely won’t be up to par come 2022.
2. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Although he did not partake in qualification, Zlatan Ibrahimovic could be eyeing a return to international duty prior to the World Cup. He recently stated “If I want to, I’ll be there”, igniting rumours that he could make his long awaited return.
Sweden’s all-time leading goal scorer still seems to have more to give, despite retiring from international play after their exit from Euro 2016. A return to the world’s biggest stage looks to be on Zlatan’s mind, and a dramatic goodbye seems fitting for the one and only, Zlatan.
1. Lionel Messi
Having already retired from international football once, Messi recently hinted that the World Cup this summer could be his last with Argentina, if they fail to win the tournament. The 30 year-old has never won a major international trophy, despite coming painfully close in recent years.
It’s hard to imagine a World Cup without Lionel Messi, although the odds seem stacked against Argentina this summer. If the only way for Messi to return to the World Cup is by lifting the trophy, it seems likely we all wave goodbye to seeing him in the iconic blue and white.