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World Cup - Football: Five biggest names who could retire after Qatar

03 October 2022 11:39:32 EST
Cristiano Ronaldo is surely set for one last bid for World Cup glory

Playing in a World Cup is the pinnacle for most footballers and for those approaching the end of their time on the world stage, it provides the perfect platform to say goodbye.

The 2018 World Cup was followed by the likes of Andres Iniesta, David Silva, Mesut Ozil and Javier Mascherano calling it a day for their national teams and this winter’s tournament in Qatar could see some even bigger names bid farewell.

Some icons of the modern game are likely to walk away after the Gulf State gathering and here are five of the biggest players potentially ready to call it a day.

What:World Cup 2022
Where:Qatar
When:21st November - 18th December 2022
How to watch:All matches will be shown on either the BBC or ITV
Odds:Brazil 5.00, England 8.00, France 7.00, Spain 9.00, Argentina 8.00

Lionel Messi

Not many players get to sign off after winning the World Cup, but the great Lionel Messi may just have the fairytale finale to his Argentina career - the Albiceleste are 8.00 to win the tournament and look a solid proposition having won the Copa America last summer.

Messi was unsurprisingly the driving force behind that South America success, being named Player of the Tournament as he finally ended his long wait for international silverware.

The seven-time Ballon d'Or winner has since moved to Paris Saint-Germain where his form has dipped somewhat, but he's got enough credit in the bank to think he'll come good in Qatar.

At 35, this World Cup is Messi's last chance to add the one title missing from the forward's jam-packed honours list and there's the potential that Argentina's all-time leading scorer goes one better than his runner-up finish at the 2014 finals.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Given how intertwined the careers of Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have become, it would be fitting if both bowed out after Qatar.

Like Messi, Ronaldo only really needs the World Cup to complete a career set of honours, although where he will be preparing for the tournament is a mystery amid rumours about his future at Manchester United.

He may be missing a World Cup winners medal, but Ronaldo's international career is arguably one of the greatest of all-time already having passed Ali Daei last year to become international football's all-time leading goalscorer with 117 goals.

He also ranks third overall for caps having made 189 appearances for Portugal since his debut in 2003 and had a big say in his nation winning their first major prize at Euro 2016.

Despite turning 37 last February, Ronaldo has shown no sign of tailing off as a goalscorer, notching 24 times in 38 games for United last season, and the five-time Ballon d'Or winner is 17.00 to finish as the topscorer at a World Cup for the first and last time this winter.

Luka Modric

Croatia's most decorated player, Luka Modric, will turn 37 before the World Cup but remains a vital component for both club and country.

Modric was integral to Real Madrid's run to the Champions League title last season, dishing out a few lessons in control and game management to some of Europe's top midfielders along the way.

If he can maintain that standard then he'll approach the World Cup in excellent form, albeit he'll struggle to surpass his exploits at the 2018 World Cup.

Modric guided Croatia all the way to the final, where they lost to France and his performances were recognised by being awarded the Golden Ball for the tournament's best player and the Ballon d'Or.

No Croatian player has ever achieved what Modric has and having passed the 150-cap mark earlier this year, he has little left to prove going into his swansong.

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Sergio Busquets

Much like Croatia, only a few players remain from Spain's golden generation, with Sergio Busquets flying the flag for the old guard, unless Sergio Ramos can prove his form and fitness at PSG.

Busquets is a far safer bet to go to the World Cup with La Roja, who are not without hope of winning the tournament at 9.00.

Busquets was a vital part of the Spain side who broke their World Cup duck at the 2010 edition, being named in the team of the tournament.

He would help Spain back up their South Africa success with a dominant victory at Euro 2012 - just one of the 32 major honours he's collected in his career.

Largely going unnoticed in his role as the destroyer in midfield, Spain will certainly notice his absence if the 34-year-old does decide to call it quits this year.

Gareth Bale

Few players have done more to grow and strengthen the sport of football in their country than Gareth Bale, who has helped push the beautiful game to new heights in rugby-mad Wales.

Bale will go down as Wales' greatest-ever player alongside John Charles, topping the goalscoring charts for the Dragons and guiding a nation that had only ever been to one major tournament before his debut in 2006, to two European Championship finals and a World Cup.

Wales will end a 64-year wait to compete at a World Cup in Qatar and Bale may well call it a day after the tournament.

Although only 32, fitness issues have plagued the recent Los Angeles FC recruit and he'll have a big decision to make after this winter as to whether he has another qualifying campaign in him.

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