Cristiano Ronaldo changes retirement plan as he refuses to let go of Lionel Messi rivalry

Cristiano Ronaldo wants to continue playing into his own 40s and still harbours hope of playing in the next World Cup – in 2026 – for Portugal in his last appearance

Cristiano Ronaldo is hopeful of suspending his retirement plan and extending his career to participate in the next World Cup.

Ronaldo had previously indicated he wanted his career at the top level to last until at least 2024, which would include next summer’s European Championship finals, however he wants to remain playing until 2027. He will celebrate his 39th birthday in February, while he will be aged 41 by the time of the next World Cup – in three years time.

Ronaldo became the highest-ever goalscorer in international football in 2021 while he has now scored a total of 123 goals for Portugal in 201 caps. He captained his nation in last year’s World Cup finals in Qatar and wants to have one more shot at the competition, having won the European Championships in 2016 with Portugal.

Ronaldo’s Portugal side were beaten 1-0 by Morocco in their quarter-final in Qatar last December and the superstar went straight down the tunnel in tears after missing out on the chance to add the only major honour missing from his glittering CV. He could only watch on as Lionel Messi won the tournament with Argentina.

Ronaldo rejected the theory that winning the World Cup would decide the debate about football’s greatest ever player between him and Messi, by stating: “Even if I win the World Cup that will continue. Some people like me more, some less. It’s like in life, some like blondes, some like brunettes.

“I have always had to show what I can do year after year. I would love to win this tournament. I’m ambitious but if you tell me I won’t win any more tournaments I would still be happy given all I have won.

“In the history books all other records will be there. But obviously a World Cup on the shelf wouldn’t be bad. It would be a dream.”

However, a report in Spanish radio station Cadena Cope has built on reports from Saudi Arabia that Ronaldo has indicated to the football authorities in the nation that he plans to continue his career through to ‘early 2027’ – which would see him continue to play for another three seasons.

Ronaldo's World Cup campaign ended in tears in Qatar after Portugal's last eight loss

Ronaldo’s World Cup campaign ended in tears in Qatar after Portugal’s last eight loss ( Image: Getty Images)

The two players shared a remarkable sporting rivalry across more than a decade. They won 12 of 13 successive Ballon d’Or titles between them, with Messi edging out Ronaldo with seven individual honours compared to the Portuguese superstar’s five gongs (Luka Modric, in 2018, was the only player to break the sequence). Messi may yet win this year’s Ballon d’Or award.

Conversely, Ronaldo leads Messi on Champions League titles won with his five crowns eclipsing Messi’s three (the Argentine officially was part of Barca’s winning squad in 2005/06, but did not feature in the latter stages). Messi has won more league titles but Ronaldo – who is two years his elder – has scored more goals at both club and international level.

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