Athletistic/Football. Not so long ago, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi were at the pinnacle of world football, two of the greatest players of their generation.

They stood out scoring stunning La Liga goals – they netted 785 times in their career in Spain – for Real Madrid and Barcelona. Their contributions were usually celebrated each year at the Ballon d’Or ceremony. But that was before.

These days, Messi, who won the Ballon d’Or as recently as 2021 when the Portuguese finished sixth, only occasionally remembers his former glory after moving to Paris Saint-Germain. Maybe even the best need time to adapt to new conditions. But the reality is that much of his new life in France is unrecognizable compared to anything we’ve long taken for granted.

Skills remained, but the previous acceleration is not enough. The 35-year-old’s first season in Ligue 1 was his first season without scoring 10 league goals since breaking through as a teenager in 2006. His star status remains, but at the Parc des Princes he was eclipsed by Kylian Mbappe. The club’s marketing department may not be complaining too much. And Messi’s personal goals above all remain the World Cup with Argentina in Qatar and victory with PSG in the Champions League – achievements that could yet turn his career in Paris into an Indian summer. But for now, conversations about Messi seem to revolve around what he has already achieved in football, fueled by memories of his dashing displays rather than what else he can show.

The overwhelming feeling that his stay in France, while lucrative, would prove to be a boring postscript to a brilliant career.

Meanwhile, Ronaldo doesn’t feel safe at Manchester United. Although he hoped to inspire the club to a renaissance when he joined last summer, a return to Manchester actually left him unfulfilled. Although he has scored 18 Premier League goals in 30 appearances – a feat he has only surpassed once in English football – he is set to play in the Europa League next season. The big comeback wasn’t supposed to be like this.

That United wouldn’t play in the Champions League had been a reality since April, but the striker waited until July. His agent, Jorge Mendes, has been circling all summer seeking interest from those who have qualified for the UEFA elite tournament. Ronaldo, like Messi, clearly has something he wants to achieve in football. He feels he has to play at the highest level to complete the tasks, even though he enters the season at the age of 38. His appetite is not satisfied. He can point to being United’s top scorer last season as proof that the quality remains.

But while many clubs have agreed to meet his agent, Mendes has been met with skepticism, even though clubs have once lined up across the continent to secure his client. The top flight are now more wary of integrating the 37-year-old striker into forceful tactical systems.

Bayern Munich CEO Oliver Kahn has told Kicker that while the striker is undeniably ‘one of the greats’, he ‘doesn’t fit the philosophy’. Napoli owner Aurelio De Laurentiis spoke about Edinson Cavani when he suggested that ‘signing a goalkeeper at 34, 35, 36 is good, but not with a striker of that age’ but logic seems to be all that is still applicable. Ronaldo’s name came up when Chelsea’s new owner met Mendes in June. However, it’s always been difficult to see how any player would fit into Thomas Tuchel’s aggressive, pressure-based approach. And the confirmation that the London club will no longer show interest is hardly a surprise.

All the talk about the Portuguese’s displeasure has raised the suspicion that he is one of the greatest players, desperately trying to maintain his status. It must be hard, when you’re almost unmatched, to accept that the game can go on without you. Let the landscape change. He’s far from alone in striving to play at the level he’s used to and unwilling to lower his personal expectations.

It’s a common trait of great people in all sports. For every Usain Bolt, an athlete for whom sprinting seemed easy until he found himself playing catch-up for the first time in four years, which led to his retirement after the 2017 World Championships, there there are those who persevere. the final triumph. They just need to complete the last objective, even though it’s unlikely to ever be completed. This may all be born out of a love of sports, but it’s suspected that the need to be the best is the real motivation for pushing aging bodies to their limits.

Every sport has its examples. Roger Federer was driven by a desire to add one more to his 20 Grand Slam titles, but the decline began when his career was seriously hampered by knee problems and attempts to win another TSH title swept away. been effectively suspended. His three-way battle for supremacy with Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic has been so intense it’s almost shocking that Federer hasn’t won a tournament since 2018 or reached a final since 2019. COVID-19 has hurt tennis. The 2020 break was horribly ill-timed for the Swiss.

Federer became the oldest player to reach the Wimbledon quarter-finals in the open era in the summer of 2021, the crowd was eager to revive the serial winner, but then required a third operation and did not not played since. Earlier this month he dropped the ATP rankings for the first time since September 1997, when he was just 16 years old. Now 40, he aims to return to the Laver Cup in Basel later this year and then join the tour in 2023. This may be the last chance to close the lead Nadal and Djokovic have accumulated in his absence.

Whether such ambitions are realistic remains to be seen.

Serena Williams is another star who is still performing. In her case, chasing Margaret Court’s record of 24 major singles hits. However, it has been five years since she won her 23rd title in Australia, having lost four finals since then. She lifted her racquet for the first time in a year at Wimbledon this summer, 12 months after tearing her hamstring. But she was eliminated in the first round.

Williams is the comeback queen. She underwent knee surgery in 2003, but won titles again a year later. In 2011, she suffered a pulmonary embolism. She survived a life-threatening birth and a second pulmonary embolism in 2017 and is still playing. But the sharpness of his game is clearly dulled. Will it return to its previous level?

But perhaps serial champions like Federer and Williams would like to emulate Pete Sampras’ perfect ending. The American walked away with his 14th big TBS victory, winning the title at the 2002 US Open. But no matter how the legends end, we all remember the brightest moments of their careers.

Does anyone remember, for example, Michael Schumacher’s return to Formula 1 with Mercedes in 2010? Since his initial retirement in 2006, he has made just one podium finish and fans have seen only rare glimpses of his former brilliance and aggressiveness on the track. Or will everyone remember the 91 Grand Prix victories and seven world titles when Schumacher was at the top of his game at Ferrari? He is still rightly considered one of the greatest athletes of all time.

The same can be said of Ronaldo. Once he hangs up his boots, people are unlikely to notice that his final years weren’t his brightest at Juventus or Manchester United. Playing in the Europa League at the end of his career will not resonate with five European Cups, three Premier League titles, two La Liga triumphs, a pair of Serie A victories, a European Championship and an impressive number of goals. .

People remember how the Portuguese scored from all sides, spinning dizzily in his signature celebration. His legacy is secure. Even those who saw him for the first time when he came to United for the second time will appreciate the fact that they saw him play live. Every flash of brilliance it causes now will always be received with delight.

Stars remain attractive even when time takes its toll.

Vyacheslav Gorbachev, Athletistic