The 2018 FIFA world cup is almost over. For many fans, four years is an unbearably long time before the next one comes around. For some players, this was their last chance to win a World Cup before they hang up their boots and start a life outside the football pitch. The following are the most recognizable footballers who won’t grace a World Cup again:
- Andres Iniesta
Don Andres, as he is fondly referred to by many in Spain, is comfortably the most loved footballer in his home country. It was his extra time goal that beat Netherlands in that attritional final in 2010 as Spain lifted the world cup for only the first time in their history. Many football aficionados agree that aside from the big two names in football, Lionel Messi, and Cristiano Ronaldo, he has been the best footballer of the last ten years.
Yet to focus on Iniesta’s achievements is to reduce the greatness of the man. He was a key component of one of the greatest club and national sides of the past 30 years, and possibly the most tactically and technically intelligent footballer not called Messi of the same period. Watching him play football was like watching a maestro conduct a choir singing, he ran the game. Messi once said, when things got tough in a game, he looked for Iniesta.
He will be sorely missed.
- Tim Cahill
Tim Cahill was only a squad player for Australia in the 2018 World Cup, but we would be guilty of recency bias if that is how we choose to remember him. A glittering career for Cahill in England, with Milwall, and especially Everton, where he was a key member of David Moyes’ side that was one of the best teams in England for a period between 2005 and 2010 will be remembered fondly by many.
His career with Australia spanned 14 years from his debut in 2004 in a friendly against South Africa and was named in Australia’s squad for the 2018 world cup. His cameo against Peru should be his last. He scored a total of 50 goals in 107 games for Australia, including a goal in the 2014 Fifa World Cup.
He will be remembered fondly as a true competitor and fighter, by clubs such as Milwall and Everton and his national team.
- Essam El Hadary
Essam El Hadary became the oldest footballer ever to play in a World Cup in 2018 when he turned out for Egypt in their match against Saudi Arabia, where he saved a penalty in their 2-1 loss, aged 45 years and 161 days. It is a record that will not be broken easily. He is easily one of the most decorated footballers in Africa ever, courtesy of his career at Al-Ahly, arguably the biggest club in Africa and the Arabian world.
He has played for close to 23 years professionally since 1993 for clubs in Egypt, Sudan, Switzerland and Saudi Arabia. His longevity, consistency and achievements should ensure he goes down as Egypt’s and Africa’s greatest goalkeeper of all time.
- Luka Modric
Luka Modric is finally getting the recognition he deserves as the best central midfielder in the world currently, thanks to his efforts in helping Real Madrid win their third European title in a row as well as being the driving force in Croatia’s drive to the World Cup final. Croatia’s messy domestic football situation and a court case in which Modric is a witness mean his legacy is complicated at home, to say the least.
However, on the pitch, he has been a joy to watch. Aged 32, July 15th 2018 is certain to be his last World Cup appearance. No matter what happens in the World Cup final, he will be remembered as one of the best central midfielders that Croatia has ever produced.
- Keisuke Honda
Keisuke Honda became the first Japanese footballer to score in three different world cups when he scored against Senegal in the 2018 World Cup group stage. Quick, skilful with a great shot from outside the box, Honda has turned out for clubs in North America, Europe, japan and Russia. He probably played his best football for CSKA Moscow in Russia from 2009-2014, although his career pinnacle is turning out for European giants AC Milan from 2014 to 2017.
He has won a plethora of titles including the Russian Premier League in 2013, the 2016 Supercoppa Italiana and the AFC Asian Cup with Japan in 2011. He has been a true trailblazer for Japanese football.
- Lionel Messi and 7. Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi need individual articles to chronicle their achievements both internationally and for their club sides. It is likely that 33-year-old Cristiano and 32 years old Messi will both never play in another world cup in their careers, yet who would be shocked to see them both in Qatar 2022?
These two legends of the game have given their all and been the two best footballers over a period of 10 years, winning the last ten Ballon d’ors with five apiece. Argentina seems to be in a worse situation due to years of poor governance and corruption than Portugal, and both these legends would be forgiven if they chose to focus on their club careers going forward. Whatever happens to their international careers, they have given their all and are mentioned in the same breath as the greatest footballers ever to grace a football pitch.