This combo photo shows Argentina's Lionel Messi, right, and Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo reacting during their round of 16 matches respectively against France and Uruguay, at the 2018 soccer World Cup, at the Kazan Arena and at the Fisht Stadium in Sochi, Russia.
There is now doubt that the World Cup has lost its headline acts on Saturday night when the game’s two biggest stars — Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo — were show the exit door after their teams were eliminated in the round of 16.
Yes, their defeat has once again shown that football is a team game and there is only that much an individual can achieve, but one of the highlights of Russia 2018 was it was a last chance saloon for both these players to have a go at the game’s biggest prize which remained elusive for them. While no word on their future in international football is forthcoming at the time of writing this, it’s obvious that Messi, now 31, and Ronaldo, 33, is unlikely to risk their participation at football’s greatest stage four years hence to risk diluting their reputation.
Watch: Will the World Cup miss Messi and Ronaldo?
The history of World Cup shows a strange bias towards footballing aristocracy, with the trophy being shared between a handful of the European superpowers and the two Latin American giants Brazil and Argentina in turns — with Uruguay coming to the party only in the tournament’s formative years. Each edition of the showpiece has been the stage of the star players of each generation — be it Pele, Eusebio in the Sixties, Johan Cruyff or Franz Beckenbauer in the Seventies — followed, of course, by Diego Maradona in Eighties.
Messi and Ronaldo, who had a monopolistic lease over Fifa’s Ballon d’Or honours for the last decade and lent the ‘El Clasico’ the tag of the most important match in club football for the last decade or do, were desperate to add the World Cup on their shelves — but then there are shining examples of a Cryuff or George Best who failed to do so.
You cannot deny the importance of star value in any sport to sustain its appeal and economics, more so in football. This is why the world is already heralding the arrival of a Kylian Mbappe to carry on the mantle of the Big Two.