Do Messi & Ronaldo need to win the World Cup to become legends?

Fifa World Cup Brazil

Now at the summit of their powers, do Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have to showcase their talents on the biggest stage of all?

The chance to represent your country at the World Cup has always been recognised as the pinnacle of any player’s career. And that career will be judged in a significantly higher light, if they can seize the moment and prove themselves on the biggest stage of all. Pele, Gerd Muller, Diego Maradona... All such great players became legends on the back of hugely successful personal World Cup campaigns.

So can Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo join them by reaching out for glory at the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil?

The need for the world's greatest players to perform at a World Cup seems to be paramount in order to cement their place in history. Yet should this really be a prerequisite for a footballer to be labelled as great, and on the flip side, should we judge the ability of a lesser known player based entirely on a single World Cup campaign?

Would clubs be clamouring to spend even £20 million on Messi or Ronaldo if they were complete unknowns, judged purely on their performances at the last World Cup in South Africa? The answer is no.

Yet it also seems that the moment each tournament comes to a close, the clubs of Europe's elite leagues are falling over themselves in order to get to the front of the queue and splash the cash on a forward who scored two World Cup goals and looked strong against an ageing Argentinean centre-back, despite only being an also ran in the Belgium league for the previous three seasons (apologies to Daniel Amokachi).

The World Cup is, after all, a knockout tournament, with a maximum of seven and as few as three games available for each teams. For all except the home nation, it takes place in unfamiliar conditions. It is littered with controversy and unpredictability at every step, hardly appropriate conditions on which to accurately judge a player's capabilities on, let alone define a player's career.

Even if Messi and Ronaldo fail for Argentina and Portugal respectively in Brazil, their legacy would not be tainted.

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch