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World Cup match Portugal vs Ghana live: Ronaldo returns

Credit…Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

It has long been assumed that this World Cup will, almost certainly, be the conclusion of the international careers of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Their starlight is so bright, however, that it has served to obscure any further farewells that will come to the fields built by Qatar’s migrants.

This tournament will extinguish the light of an entire galaxy. This will most likely be the last time Luka Modric, Thiago Silva, Daniel Alves, Manuel Neuer, Thomas Müller, Jordi Alba, Ángel Di María, Luis Suárez, Edinson Cavani, Eden Hazard and Antoine Griezmann grace the biggest stage sports. to offer. Robert Lewandowski and Gareth Bale could still join them, forming part of the group of superstars on the farewell tour.

The World Cups, of course, have always had this goal. Just as they are the forge of greatness, they also act as the place where she draws her bow.

In that regard, this World Cup is no different from any other. And yet, the numbers suggest something different. They give the impression that football will enter the tournament with one elite and exit with another. It’s not because there’s a higher proportion of late-career famous players than normal. It’s because there are more famous players, period.

And while it’s likely the past 15 years will be seen almost exclusively through the lens of Messi and Ronaldo, the two players who defined him. Such an interpretation, however, would be reductive. It is best thought of as the first truly global era of football: an era where fans around the world could watch almost every second of a player’s career, where the great and the good met with unprecedented frequency in the League. champions. and entered our homes through video games, a time when rare talent clustered in a handful of superclubs.

The generation that will leave the scene in Qatar is the last bastion of the first generation of players who started and ended their journey in this ecosystem.

nytimes sport

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