After every World Cup comes a wave of high-profile retirements. So far Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano, Andreas Iniesta and most recently, Mesut Ozil have called time on their international careers. Which other players will be considering their international futures in the weeks to come?
Luka Modric (Croatia)
Modric rightfully won the 2018 Golden Ball for his brilliance in Russia, but he turns 33 in September. Modric is still a Real Madrid player and looks unlikely to leave them anytime soon, meanwhile Croatia are an aging side with the likes of Mandzukic (32), Subasic (33) & possibly even Rakitic (30), all of whom are doubtful for EuroCup 2020. Modric may just feel that with his legendary status confirmed, and Croatia’s best chance to win a trophy gone, it’s time to call it a day and concentrate on matters in Madrid.
Thomas Muller (Germany)
Mesut Ozil has already retired from international football, so after such a rotten tournament how many other members of Germany’s graduates from the class of 2009 will leave? Back in 2009, Germany won the European Under-21 Championship with a side featuring Ozil, Jerome Boateng, Sami Khedira, Manual Neuer and Thomas Muller. All were promoted to the senior side by 2010, all won the World Cup in 2014, and all were dreadful in Russia.
Ozil’s situation was complicated by his love/ hate relationship with the German public but some of the others may now follow, the most high-profile of whom is Muller. He will only turn 29 in September, but much like Fernando Torres and Wayne Rooney who started to decline at that age, Muller looks to have too many miles on the clock having played a full decade at Bayern Munich, and having won 94 Germany caps. It may be advisable for Muller to step back from the national side to see if he can regain some form, even if that amounts to a temporary hiatus rather than permanent retirement.
Mo Salah (Egypt)
Salah threatened to retire during the World Cup over a photo of him with Chechnya leader Ramzan Kadyrov. At the tender age of 26 it would be an extraordinary move to actually ditch an international career. In saying that, Salah has the Africa Cup of Nations coming up in January and may feel he wants to concentrate solely on Liverpool. Retirement for a player who has at least 1 World Cup left in him seems extreme, but putting his Egypt career to one side for a while looks plausible.
Sergio Ramos (Spain)
With Pique and Iniesta gone, could skipper Sergio Ramos be the next of Spain’s glorious generation to leave the national team? Ramos is now 32, and the senior man in the Spain squad, but the Real Madrid captain may not be too pleased to see former Barcelona boss Luis Enrique take over the national team. Enrique will need to make changes, and Ramos will be 34 come Euro 2020, leaving his international future in limbo. Ramos has proved an uncanny political operator and if he doesn’t get the assurances he wants from Enrique, the threat of retirement will be in play.
Gary Cahill (England)
Cahill has been the mainstay of the England defence for the past half decade, but times are changing. Cahill went to Russia as favourite to play on the left of England’s 3-man defense, but he lost out to Harry Maguire. Gareth Southgate has already confirmed that Cahill is considering his England future and with England’s decorated juniors likely to push through to the senior side, it seems to be a sensible time for Cahill to walk away.
Vincent Kompany (Belgium)
Vincent Kompany is Belgium’s inspirational leader and he will be determined to get one last shot at a championship at Euro 2020. Injuries have dogged his career in recent years, limiting him to just 41 Premier League games in the last 3 years. In fact, he hasn’t played 30 Premier League games in a season since winning City’s inaugural Premier League crown in 2012. Against that backdrop, it’s difficult to see Kompany’s body withstanding the twin pressures of club and international football. While a third place medal isn’t a World Cup trophy, it could be as good as he gets.
Brazil’s marauding left-back is now 30, and although he’s hardly showing signs of decline, it’s hard to see him sticking around if he doesn’t believe he will start at Qatar 2022. For now, Brazil will be desperate to keep him given the lack of quality alternatives but Brazil have been burned by holding onto full-backs for too long. Two that immediately come to mind are Cafu & Roberto Carlos in 2006. With that in mind, it looks like Tite and Marcelo need to have a lengthy chat.
Diego Godin (Uruguay)
It’s been a fabulous ride for Uruguay’s golden generation, but after twelve years at the helm, Oscar Tabarez and his veteran side will slowly start melting away. Godin at 32 is a year older than Edinson Cavani or Luis Suarez, both of whom seem likely to stay around a little longer. He also plays his club football in the physically demanding pressing system of Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid, which is hardly conducive to a longer stay with the national team. Godin is still the best defender in the world but a stay beyond next year’s Copa America looks beyond even him.
Leo Messi (Argentina)
This is the big one. Will the five-time Ballon d’Or winner walk away from Argentina? Messi often cut a sullen lonely figure in Russia and will be relieved to escape back to Barcelona. No sooner had Argentina landed back in Buenos Aires, the AFA sacked their unpopular manager, Jorge Sampoli.
The top priority for the AFA and the incoming manager is to get Messi onside and persuade him that it’s worth staying in the national side. It won’t be easy, and Messi who’s already retired once for Argentina, will need to be convinced the new man will build an organized side rather than the collection of individuals who played in Russia this summer. The next World Cup is looking like a long shot for Messi, but persuading the man that Argentina can win the 2019 Copa America with would at least give him the chance to add an Argentinan-medal to that glittering array of Barcelona titles.
And 1 that isn’t…
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
Ronaldo is older than any other player on this list, but Ronaldo isn’t just any other player in the world! At 33, he’s just joined Juventus and is still talking about setting records whilst most of his peers are slopping off to top up their pension plans in the J-League or MLS. Moving to the slower paced Serie A should ease some of the pressure on Ronaldo’s body, whilst Portugal would reduce his workload with the national team to keep him around longer. The major key here is that there seems no indication about Ronaldo wanting to walk away from the international scene.
Ronaldo will almost certainly be there at Euro 2020, and a man so obsessed with cementing his place as the greatest ever, will be well aware of Roger Federer winning Grand Slams aged at 36, and Tom Brady playing in the Super Bowl at 40. You wouldn’t want to bet against one of the best ever playing aged 37 at Qatar 2022.
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