The 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia has arrived. Get to know more about these top players who will do everything in their power to bring the World Cup home.
The Portuguese superstar known for his intense competitiveness and temperamental nature heads to the 2018 World Cup in Russia determined to show he is the best player of all time.
U.S. & World
Born and raised in a working-class neighborhood in Madeira, an island southwest of Portugal, Ronaldo showed a natural talent and devotion to soccer since childhood. At 14, he moved to Lisbon to play with Sporting CP Youth and became the protégé of Laszlo Boloni, who took him on a pathway to success almost immediately.
In 2003, he signed with Manchester United for €18 million ($21 million), replacing David Beckham not only as an attacking winger but as the team's most famous and popular player. In 2009, he moved to Real Madrid in what was then the most expensive soccer tranfer in history, worth €94 million ($111 million). The 33-year-old has won the Champions League four times, including this May with Real Madrid.
Ronaldo is the reigning winner of the Ballon d’Or prize given to the world's best soccer player. He's won it five times, a record he holds with Lionel Messi is the only other player who has achieved this record.
This inventive, often astounding forward known as "La Pulga," or "the flea," will be central to Argentina's hopes of taking the World Cup home for a third time.
Lionel Andrés Messi, now 30, was born to a working-class family in Rosario, Argentina. He is the third of four siblings whose parents were factory workers and soccer enthusiasts.
His soccer abilities were evident from a very young age: at 6 he was playing for Newell’s Old Boys, one of the biggest clubs in Rosario, proving he was fast and determined. But his career came close to an end when, at 10 years old, he was diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency.
Newell’s was unable to pay for the medical treatment due to an economic crisis in the country, but in 2000, the promsing youngster moved to Barcelona. A year later, Messi signed with Barcelona's soccer academy, which took care of his medical treatment. He has played for the team ever since, the linchpin of the team that won an unprecedented six trophies in one year.
Although Messi has won the Ballon D’Or five times, he hasn't yet won a major championship with Argentina, despite almost single-handedly dragging the "Albiceleste," as the team is known, to the final in 2014. For Argentina to win the World Cup in Russia would elevate Messi to the same level as living soccer legends Pelé and Maradona.
His full name is Neymar da Silva Santos Jr., but the world knows him as Neymar. The Brazilian star and most expensive soccer player in the world has been recuperating from a foot injury he suffered in February, so soccer fans are wondering how much of a factor he will be as Brazil aims to win its sixth World Cup.
Neymar was born 26 years ago to Neymar Santos, a former soccer player whose name he inherited, and Nadine Da Silva. In 2003, when he was only 11 years old, he moved to São Vicente with his family and began playing for Portuguesa Santista. That same year, he moved to Santos and joined Santos FC, the team where Pelé became the greatest player ever.
His reputation grew and in May 2013, he joined Messi at Barcelona, where they formed an imposing partnership along that won the Champions League.
Neymar was expected to lead his team to a World Cup victory on home turf in 2014 but was knocked out with a broken back, before his team suffered a humiliating 7-1 defeat to Germany in the semifinals. Neymar got revenge two years later, scoring the winning penalty kick in a shootout against Germany in the 2016 Olympics, also held in Brazil.
Neymar continued to play for Barcelona until August 2017, when Paris Saint-German smashed the world transfer record by paying €222 million ($262 million) to bring him to Paris.
Javier “Chicharito” Hernández
The soccer star of West Ham United, best known as “Chicharito” (“Little Pea”) is imperative for the performance of Mexico's team in the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The forward was born in Guadalajara in 1988, to Silvia Balcázar, whose father Tomás Bálcazar played in the 1954 World Cup, and Javier “Chícharo” Hernández, an avowed soccer player who performed in the 1986 World Cup. Soccer is in his blood with Hernández the third generation in a family of players.
At 18, he began playing for the Chivas de Guadalajara, a leading Mexican team. After his performance in the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, he was spotted by leading European teams and was offered a contract with Manchester United and later, Real Madrid.
In 2017, he signed with the British team West Ham United, where he now plays.