The World Cup is right around the corner and is set to be the last chance for two of the greatest to shine on the biggest stage.
And considering neither Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi has ever lifted FIFA’s most prestigious trophy, the 2022 tournament in Qatar could mean more to them than ever before.
Manchester United star Ronaldo will be in his forties by the time the 2026 World Cup comes around, while an appearance by Paris-Saint Germain ace Messi at 38 is unlikely as well.
If things both go to plan for Portugal and Argentina, the two legendary rivals could meet in the Qatar final in December.
Yet Brazil will be among the sides looking to put a stop to that, with Neymar out to make up for lost time in what will be his third World Cup.
The three players have widely been touted as the best of their generations but who has the best record at the World Cup?
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Cristiano Ronaldo World Cup record
Man of the Match awards: 6
Best finish: Semi-finals 2006, 4th
Ronaldo has won both Euro 2016 and the Nations League with Portgual, but the World Cup has eluded him in his four attempts.
He made his World Cup debut in 2006 – at the age of 21 – and scored once against Iran as his country reached the semi-finals, ultimately finishing fourth.
But that tournament was headlined by his involvement in then-teammate Wayne Rooney’s sending off in a quarter-final penalty shootout win over England, from which Ronaldo bagged the winning spot-kick.
His follow-up appearance in South Africa four years was even worse, with just one goal in four games – an 87th-minute strike in a 7-0 win over minnows North Korea – before a round of 16 defeat to eventual winners Spain.
Ronaldo looked to turn the tide at Brazil 2014 as the reigning Ballon d’Or holder and a Champions League winner with Real Madrid.
Yet struggling for fitness, the then-29-year-old only managed one goal and was powerless to prevent a group-stage exit for Portugal.
Russia 2018 was much more like it from Ronaldo though, as he more than doubled his overall goal tally at the World Cup.
He scored four times – including THAT hat-trick against Spain – but again Portugal crashed out at the last-16 stage with a 2-1 loss to Uruguay.
Lionel Messi World Cup record
Man of the Match awards: 6
Best finish: Final 2014, 2nd
Messi has two international trophies to his name like Ronaldo, but again has never seen his Argentina side get over the line in four previous attempts.
The comparisons between the two don’t end there, with the 2006 World Cup also Messi’s first experience on football’s grandest stage.
The then-18-year-old came off the bench in Argentina’s second game against Serbia and Montenegro and within 13 minutes had scored and assisted another in a 6-0 win.
That goal means Messi remains Argentina’s youngest scorer at the World Cup but he was an unused substitute in their eventual quarter-final penalty shootout defeat to hosts Germany.
Messi’s explosion on the world scene meant he was his country’s main man four years later in 2010 yet things didn’t go to plan.
The PSG star went goalless in five games before Argentina went out to Germany in the quarters, with just one solitary assist.
Messi came back with a vengeance on enemy soil in Brazil 2014, with four goals and one assists in seven matches before his side fell at the final hurdle – to Germany for a third time – despite him winning the the best player of the tournament.
Messi couldn’t replicate that feat in Russia, with just one strike and a missed penalty before Argentina’s round of 16 loss to eventual champions France, meaning the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner has never scored in a knockout game at the World Cup.
Neymar World Cup record
Best finish: Semi-finals 2014, 4th
Messi’s PSG teammate has only appeared at two World Cups, first breaking into the international set-up after the 2010 edition.
All eyes were on Neymar as the marquee player on home soil for the Brazil World Cup but he started on fire, with four goals in his first four games.
Yet in the quarter-finals he was left with a fractured vertebrae after Juan Zuniga kneed him from behind in a win over Colombia.
As a result, Neymar missed Brazil’s 7-1 loss to Germany in the last four, with Brazil also suffering a 3-0 defeat to the Netherlands in his absence in the third-place playoff.
Following that disappointing end to the 2014 World Cup, Neymar came into Russia four years later with a point to prove.
But he was rushing back from a long term lay off and only managed one goal in Brazil’s three group games.
Neymar looked to be finding his form in a win over Mexico in the Round of 16 but his joy was cut short as he failed to prevent Brazil’s quarter-finals exit to Belgium.