The World Cup is perceived by many to be the pinnacle of football – a competition where the best teams and players in the world come together to play the beautiful game.
Whilst the tournament in Russia will be the largest international football competition in history, with more teams participating than ever before, a number of high profile figures will be conspicuous by their absence this summer.
Here, The Boot Room highlight six star players that will not be at the World Cup.
Bale was one of the outstanding figures at Euro 2016 as Wales reached the semi-finals but the once most expensive football player in the world will not be in Russia this summer.
The 28-year-old has struggled with injuries throughout the season and has only been a bit-part figure at Real Madrid for much of the campaign. However, he remains one of the most dynamic attacking players in European football and provided everyone with a reminder of his ability with an astonishing brace in the Champions League final.
Unfortunately, Bale will have to be content with watching his Real Madrid team mate Cristiano Ronaldo take centre stage this summer as Wales failed to qualify for this year’s competition.
The Belgian midfielder has been a crucial factor in Roma’s success this season, including helping the team to reach the semi-finals of the Champions League.
Nainggolan is renowned for the quality of his passing and the consistency of his play and is widely regarded as being one of the leading central midfielders in Serie A. He also possesses an abundance of experience at international level and was part of the Belgian squad that competed at Euro 2016.
However, the 30-year-old will not be in Russia this summer having been omitted from Roberto Martinez’s squad and has subsequently announced his retirement from international football.
It is worth noting that Belgium are certainly not short of quality in midfield – Kevin de Bryne, Alex Witsel, Mousa Dembele and Marouane Fellaini were all selected ahead of Nainggolan.
Virgil Van Dijk
The Dutchman became the most expensive defender in world football after joining Liverpool in January for £75 million from Premier League rivals Southampton, yet he will not feature at the World Cup this summer following Holland’s failure to qualify.
Van Dijk has flourished since arriving at Anfield and played a key role in helping the club to reach the Champions League final. He has added steel, organisation and a new sense of resoluteness to Liverpool’s back line and, when on form, he makes the art of defending look infuriatingly easy.
However, the Dutch finished third in qualification Group A, missing out on a play-off spot to Sweden on goal difference, which means that Holland have failed to qualify for both of the previous two major international tournaments.
There is always a sense of excitement when Brazil arrive at an international tournament and in Neymar the team undoubtedly possess one of the best players in the world.
However, Chelsea defender David Luiz was omitted from Tite’s squad earlier this month meaning that the 31-year-old’s famous hair will not be on show in Russia.
Luiz has struggled for form and fitness throughout the campaign and has fallen considerably down the pecking order at Stamford Bridge following a string of injuries. However, Brazil are not blessed with an abundance of defensive talent and his omission has come as a surprise to many.
The Chelsea star would have been looking forward to redeeming himself in Russia after his horror-show in the 2014 World Cup, where he was part of the side that were beaten 7-1 by Germany on home soil, but will ultimately have to be content with watching the action from home.
Buffon has been a prominent feature of international football for the previous two decades and has been present at all of the previous nine major international tournaments. However, this year he will be absent from the World Cup for the first time since 2002.
The 40-year-old has been a constant feature for Italy since making his debut in 1997 and holds the record for the most international appearances having appeared 176 times for his country. He was part of the Italian team that won the World Cup in 2006 and has been an integral to the modern success of Juventus.
Buffon announced in May that he would retire at the end of the current campaign and Italy’s failure to qualify for Russia meant that the legendary goalkeeper was denied one last World Cup appearance.
The French forward is widely considered to have been one the leading striker’s in world football throughout the last decade, yet the 30-year-old will not be in Russia this summer as his international exile continues.
Benzema, who scored in the Champions League final last month and has been a prominent figure for Real Madrid over the last nine years, has scored 27 goals in 81 international appearances for Les Bleus and has been named as the French Player of the Year on three occasions.
However, he has not been selected for international duty since October 2015 after initially being suspended by the French Football Federation due to his alleged involvement in the extortion of Mathieu Valbuena. Benzema was expected to be recalled ahead of Euro 2016 but, despite rumours of a potential return, he was not selected as the team finished runners-up in the tournament.
Benzema has admitted that he has not received an explanation from France coach Didier Deschamps regarding his international exile and it appears unlikely that he will feature at a major competition again.