The two biggest stars in world football, the greatest player of all time and the greatest goalscorer of the last decade, have left the World Cup through the back door. Their national teams were only capable of winning one match each out of a possible four. Their performances were largely mediocre too. They were incapable of leading their side to victory or transforming the horrible football on show.
However, in both cases it's clear to see that their national teams aren't on the same level as them. Argentina still don't know how to play. Beyond the 'was Messi good or bad' debate, it's a sin that he is left to do it alone, unassisted and without any plan of how he is supposed to lead. Portugal, on the other hand, failed to get the maximum out of Cristiano. He scored four goals, sure, but one was a penalty, one a freekick and another a gift from De Gea. They didn't give Cristiano the ball enough and his country were a disaster.
What a difference! It's clear that at Barcelona and Real Madrid everything is very different. With Barcelona, Messi has teammates he can associate himself with, ones he can find with fantastic passes and, at the same time, ones who notice his incredible movement. Not like the stuff Argentina was throwing at him. And with Cristiano it's more or less the same story. Although he needs Modric, Kroos, Isco and company more because he lives exclusively to score goals.
The problem is the biggest teams at international level don't possess the same level of quality that the top club sides in Europe do, specifically Barcelona and Real Madrid. And this isn't just about Messi with Argentina and Cristiano with Portugal, there's another clear sign this is true: Paulinho and Brazil. He is finding it tough to be a starter at Barcelona, where he is usually a sub, yet he's a key part of this Brazilian team. Paulinho isn't Neymar or Coutinho, no, obviously not, but his contribution is important to Tite's XI. Paulinho is a certain starter with Brazil but he isn't at Barça, nor will he ever be. And hey, we're talking about arguably the favourites to win the World Cup here.