A battle fought out in club football between Neymar, Cristiano Ron..." /> What the World Cup means for Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi

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Published on June 14th, 2018 | by Vieri Capretta

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What the World Cup means for Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi

A battle fought out in club football between Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi is being carried over in the 2018 World Cup – who will win?

The biggest stage, the biggest competition, history in the making. The World Cup is by far the most important footballing tournament: winning it is a direct path to eternal glory. This counts for anyone involved. But for the three best footballers in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neymar, it could have some added value. For their careers, for their legacy, for their future.

What it means for Cristiano Ronaldo…

With five Ballon d’Ors, five Champions Leagues and more importantly, the recognition on an international level – Euro 2016 – Cristiano’s legacy will remain forever as it is. That European win with Portugal puts him a notch ahead of Messi in terms of trophies, as the Argentinian has yet to win a major trophy with his national team.

But, as we said, the World Cup is something else, and Ronaldo is constantly hungry for more. The Real Madrid man believes he is the best player ever, and he wants to prove it yet again. Lifting the trophy in Russia would truly mean that few critics could still argue against him being the best of his generation, if not the best in history. The team will back him, as we saw at Euro 2016, and he will need to be the charismatic leader and prime-finisher: a job he can do very well.

What it means for Lionel Messi…

The three consecutive final losses with Argentina, World Cup 2014, Copa America 2015 and 2016, combined with Ronaldo’s Euro 2016 victory, puts La Pulga in a difficult position in terms of what he has achieved with his country.

Yes, he was the main man in taking Argentina to the 2014 final, but was unable to win. Diego Maradona will always be a step ahead if Messi does not lift the World Cup trophy. It’s inevitable. Leo has the skills to be the best ever, the pure footballing talent, but needs the winner’s medal to silence everyone who criticises him.

It was so close four-years-ago against Germany…yet so far. He will have to be Argentina’s technical leader on the pitch: starting play and finishing it too. The firepower for the team is insane, but the rest of the positions lack quality. But there is Messi. If he wins, he will jump to the top of the podium of the best players in history.

What it means for Neymar…

A different matter for O’ Ney, for time reasons. He still has most of his career ahead of him, and will be playing other World Cup competitions in the Brazilian’s prime. But there is more pressure on Brazil than there is on Argentina or Portugal. The latter two squads are very good, but not as good as Germany, Spain, France or Brazil – probably the best four on paper. So a failure would be difficult to accept for Neymar and his teammates. Especially after crashing out so badly from the World Cup at home in 2014. Neymar is the leader, but there are many other quality players there to help him. Winning it is the minimum we expect from such a team.

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About the Author

mm

A freelance journalist and broadcaster focusing on European soccer and currently featuring on Uefa.com, La Gazzetta dello Sport, Marca in English and more.



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