Who are the players who have played the most games

Who are the players who have played the most games in World Cups and who has participated in the most?

(CNN Spanish) — The FIFA World Cup is the pinnacle of world soccer and for many, winning the world title is in some ways the pinnacle of their career. However, not many can make it to these competitions, and they are not always called to these competitions.

But there is an elite group that heads the select list of players who have not only participated in more World Cups, but who have played the most games in these competitions that are held every four years.

The historic Lothar Matthaeus and Miroslav Klose from Germany are the two soccer players who have played the most matches in the soccer World Cups, but this year they could stop holding this record, as Qatar 2022 opens the possibility for some like Lionel Messi, from Argentina , and even Cristiano Ronaldo, to add more games and more participation in soccer World Cups.

This is the list of the players who have played the most world cups and games from 1930 to 2018, with information from Statista and TransferMrkt.

Lothar Matthaus

Country: Germany
World Cups: 5
World Cup matches: 25

June 10, 1988: West Germany’s Lothar Matthaus is blocked by Italy’s Ricardo Ferri during the European Championship Group 1 match at the Rheinstadion in Dusseldorf, West Germany. The match ended in a 1-1 draw. (Credit: Allsport UK / Allsport)

Matthaus, who was active as a player between is one of the most outstanding footballers of the German teams and is the player who has participated in the World Cup the most in the entire history of the tournament.

With the German team, he participated in five World Cups: Spain 1982, Mexico 1986, Italy 1990, USA 1994 and France 1998. In total, he has 25 World Cup matches to his credit and six goals during all his appearances.

He is also one of the only ones on the list who, in addition to playing so many World Cups, won a World Cup: Italy 1990, where he led his team as captain. He played 150 international matches for Germany and scored 23 goals in total.

Miroslav Klose

Country: Germany
World Cups: 4
World Cup matches: 24

German striker Miroslav Klose during the FIFA World Cup 2014 Qualifying Group C match Germany vs Faroe Islands on September 7, 2012 in Hannover, Germany. AFP PHOTO / PATRIK STOLLARZ (Credit: PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP/GettyImages)

Moroslav Klose is the second player to have participated in the FIFA World Cups the most, reaching a world competition for the first time in 2002, under coach Rudi Völler. Klose participated in four World Cups: Korea-Japan 2002; Germany 2006, South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014, according to TransferMarkt data.

The German center forward played 24 World Cup matches for the German team and scored 16 goals in these competitions. He was active as a professional between 2001, making his debut with the Völler team at the age of 22. He played 137 caps for Germany and scored 71 goals in various tournaments.

After a prodigious career, in which he won several titles, including being crowned world champion with Germany in 2014, Klose retired in 2016 at the age of 38, after last playing European football for Lazio.

Since July 2022 he has been the coach of SCR Altach in the Bundesliga.

Paolo Maldini

Country: Italy
World Cups: 4
World Cup matches: 23

Italy’s captain Paolo Maldini (left) fights for the ball with Norway’s Havard Flo at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille, southern France, during their second round match of the 16th Soccer World Cup. Italy won 1-0 and is qualified for the quarterfinals. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) AFP PHOTO OMAR TORRES (Credit: Omar TORRES/AFP)

The Italian defender Paolo Maldini is so far the third player who has played the most World Cups and World Cup matches. Maldini made his debut with the Italian national team at the age of 19 under coach Azeglio Vicini after passing through the Italian sub 21 and sub 23, according to data from TransferMarkt.

He played in four World Cups: Italy 1990, United States 1994, France 1998 and Korea-Japan 2002, where he accompanied the team to the round of 16 in the latter. In total he accumulated 23 World Cup matches. In 1994 he finished runner-up in the world with Italy, who lost 3-2 on penalties, giving Brazil its fourth World Cup title.

Maldini did not participate in any of the four world titles that Italy has won, which were reached in 1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006.

The Italian defender, active since 1986 and who played his entire career at AC Milan, retired in 2009 and is currently the coach of that club since 2019.

Diego Armando Maradona

Argentina country
World Cups: 4
World Cup matches: 21

Diego Maradona kisses the World Cup in Mexico 1986. Argentina seeks its third World Cup title in Qatar

Maradona is the mythical 10 of the Argentine team. He made his debut with his country’s team at the young age of 16 because with his dribbling he conquered coach César Menotti, who summoned him to defend the albiceleste in 1978, but then left him out of the 1978 World Cup in Argentina for the his inexperience.

Four years later his revenge would come, participating for the first time in Spain in 1982. Three more would come later, Mexico 1986, Italy 1990 and USA 1994, the latter his great bitter pill when he was expelled for testing positive for ephedrine among other prohibited substances.

The peak of his career, and perhaps his life, occurred at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, when at the age of almost 26 the left-hander led Argentina to the second World Cup in its history, scoring two goals in a historic quarterfinal performance against to England. That day the famous “hand of god” was born.

After testing positive for doping, Maradona received a 15-month suspension, the second after that in 1991 when he failed an anti-doping control for cocaine. In 1994, after being suspended from the 1994 World Cup —his last match was in the group stage against Nigeria— his stage with the Argentine national team ended after 20 years in professional soccer. He said goodbye to soccer in 1997, after a brief return to Boca Juniors.

Maradona played 21 World Cup matches with Argentina and scored 8 goals in these competitions. In total there were 90 international games and 34 goals with the albiceleste.

Maradona passed away in November 2020.

Uwe Seeler

Country: Germany
World Cups: 4
World Cup matches: 21

The captains of the German and English national soccer teams Uwe Seeler (left) and Bobby Moore exchange pennants as Swiss referee Gottfried Dienst (centre) looks on before the start of the World Cup final on July 30, 1966 at Wembley Stadium in London. AFP PHOTO (Credit: STAFF/AFP)

The German center forward is another of the players who has had the most participations in the history of the World Cups. He played four World Cups and 21 World Cup matches.

He made his debut almost at the age of 18 with the West German team in 1954. But it was not until Sweden 1958 when he was called up to play a FIFA World Cup, in which he reached the semifinal after losing against the host.

In his participation in the World Cups in Sweden 1958, Chile 1962, England 1966 and Mexico 1970, Seeler scored 9 goals, although he failed to be crowned champion with Germany on any of these occasions.

The forward played a total of 72 international matches and scored 43 goals for the German team. Much of his career was spent with Hamburg and after a period of inactivity in football, between 1972 and 1978, he returned briefly for a season to the now defunct Cork Celtic FC of Northern Ireland and then retired at the end of the season.

Seeler passed away in July 2022.

Wladyslaw Zmuda

Country: Poland
World Cups: 4
World Cup matches: 21

Wladyslaw Zmuda during the under 20 international friendly match between Germany and Poland at comtech Arena on September 9, 2012 in Grossaspach, Germany. (Getty Images)

The Polish central defender made his debut with the Polish national team in 1973 and arrived the following year at the 1974 World Cup in Germany, which saw the local team crowned champion, while Poland won third place.

Zmuda participated in a total of four World Cups: Germany 1974, Argentina 1978, Spain 1982 and Mexico 1986. In total he played 21 World Cup matches with Poland, twice reaching third place.

The central defender also featured in 91 international games and scored two goals during his career for Poland. His career was developed in Polish teams such as Poland’s Śląsk Wroclaw, and later moved to Italian soccer with Hellas Verona, and to US MLS. He finished his career with Italian Cremonese in 1987.

Between 2009 and 2013 he was the coach of the Polish youth team and has since retired.

Other participants with more world cups

These are the other footballers with the most participation and matches in World Cups: (With figures from TransferMarkt)

Cafu, from Brazil, played 20 matches in four World Cups: USA 1994 (Champion), France 1998, Korea-Japan 2002 (Champion), Germany 2006. He retired in 2009.

Bastian Schweinsteiger, from Germany, played 20 games in three World Cups: Germany 2006, South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014. He retired in 2020.

Philipp Lahm, from Germany, played 20 games in three World Cups: Germany 2006, South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014. He retired from soccer in 2017.

Grzegorz Lato, from Poland, played 20 games in three World Cups: Germany 1974, Argentina 1978 and Spain 1982. He scored 10 goals in the World Cups. He retired from professional soccer in 1984.

Javier Mascherano, from Argentina, played 20 games in four World Cups: Germany 2006, South Africa 2010, Brazil 2014 and Russia 2018 and scored one goal in World Cups. He retired from professional soccer in 2020.

Those who could play more world cups

Argentine Lionel Messi, who so far has participated in four World Cups and has played 19 games, could break a new record in Qatar 2022 by achieving his fifth participation in a World Cup and, if he plays at least in the group stage, he could reach the 22 World Cup matches.

Cristiano Ronaldo, from Portugal, would also enter his fifth World Cup in Qatar 2022, after participating in the 2006, 2010, 2014 and 2018 World Cups. So far he has played 17 World Cup matches and has scored 7 goals. If he played at least in the group stage, Ronaldo would complete 20 World Cup matches.