Moscow: They both have five ‘World Player of the Year’ awards between them along with a cabinet full of trophies and record books that they keep writing.
In Russia, during the course of their World Cup campaign, they created few more records for journalists to chew on.
But on Saturday night, the ultimate prize eluded them once again and both of them are heading home from Russia on the same day.
Imagine, had their teams made it to the quarter-finals; they were set for the collision course and the aftermath of the result of that match as the only one would have made it to the semi-finals and probably on course for the ultimate prize: the World Cup. But, it wasn’t to be...
Lionel Messi’s Argentina and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal were eliminated in their Round of 16 matches by France and Uruguay respectively. Kylian Mbappe inspired France emerged 4-3 winners in a 7-goal thriller played in Kazan.
Four hours later, 2000-km South of Kazan, in Sochi, Edinson Cavani brace took Uruguay to the last eight beating Portugal 2-1. Ronaldo helping injured Cavani off the field touched the hearts of the fans.
Two biggest names in the current footballing history were heading home, three days after the defending champions Germany were sent packing, taking away the glamour and headlines, and costing the sponsors a whole lot of revenue loss.
By the time this piece is published, Argentina and Portugal would have reached back home, with the bitter disappointment of exiting the World Cup. As these two teams fly out, one cannot overlook the signs of the future.
It might just be the last time we have seen these two incredible contemporaries at the World’s biggest stage. Messi recently turned 31, while Ronaldo is already 33. The last season was an evidence that these two men from Barcelona and Real Madrid aren’t at their peak anymore. They can still conjure up moments of magic, like Ronaldo’s free-kick against Spain or Messi’s sublime technique to open the scoring against Nigeria, but their powers are fading.
They put on a captain’s armband as well to burden their shoulders with even more pressure. The camera finds their face at the first sign of calamity. Their dejected faces on the front page of the newspapers sell more copies, their every reaction makes a breaking news on the prime time.
The 2008 Beijing Olympics gold is all Barcelona No. 10 has to show for all his genius while donning the colours of Argentina, while Real Madrid’s No. 7 has his Euro 2016 medal to show for what he achieved with the national team.
Jorge Sampaoli said that sometimes the limitations within his squad overshadows the brilliance of Leo, and Fernando Santos would agree with him when it comes to Portugal team and Ronaldo’s genius.
One doesn’t know what future holds, the distraught Messi might just call it a day from international football like he did two years ago after the heartbreak of Copa America final defeat. While Portugal coach too expressed that his star man will continue to lead the side as Nations Cup looms on the horizon.
The next World Cup is four years away and that is a long time to predict whether these two greats will have it in them to make the final 23. We might have just witnessed these two shining stars of global football become the shooting stars.