Named the best Portuguese player of all time by the Portuguese Football Federation in 2015, Cristiano Ronaldo who made his senior debut in 2003 at age 18, is leaving no stone unturned in the quest to become all-time international top scorer, reports OLUWAMAYOMIKUN OREKOYA
Cristiano Ronaldo is now just seven goals away from equalling the international goal-scoring record after netting in Portugal’s 7-0 thrashing of Andorra.
Ronaldo reached 102 goals with Portugal to sit seven shy of the 109 scored by former Iran striker Ali Daei, the only other male soccer player to surpass the 100-goal milestone for a national team. Ronaldo broke the century mark after scoring twice in Portugal’s Nations League win over Sweden in October.
Goals from Pedro Neto, Paulinho (two), Renato Sanches, Joao Felix, Ronaldo and own goal from Emili Garcia handed Portugal a convincing victory.
Coming off a minor knee injury and having recently been sidelined by a positive COVID-19 result, Ronaldo entered the match after halftime at the Stadium of Light in Lisbon. He made it 6-0 with a close-range header in the 85th minute after having squandered a few good chances.
The late goal means Ronaldo has now scored 50 goals in 50 games for Portugal since turning 30. Before 30, he had 52 goals in 118 games.
International football’s record scorers are a mix of some of the most illustrious players in the history of the game along with others who have been at the lower reaches of the international game.
Illustrating this is the presence of Malaysia’s Mokhtar Dahari, Kuwait’s Bashar Abdullah and India’s Sunil Chhetri among the Top 10. Indeed, seven players from Asians nations are part of this elite crowd.
More familiar names, however, such as Hungary great Ferenc Puskas and Pele also make the list. Both had better goals-per-match ratios that Ronaldo and had long, successful international careers but played in an era in which the volume of matches was lower.
Daei aside, no-one can come close to Ronaldo’s scoring record for his country while Dahari comes third on the list with 86 goals – a full 15 behind the five-time Ballon d’Or winner.
Incidentally, Argentina’s Lionel Messi, Ronaldo’s great rival, currently stands on 71 international goals, just one short of making the Top 10.
Speaking in 2019 when he scored goal number 99 for Portugal, he said: “All records must be broken and I will beat that record.”
Ronaldo, who helped Portugal to win the 2016 Euros and last summer’s Nations League, now has 102 goals from 168 appearances thanks to his header in the 7-0 thumping of minnows Andorra.
The former Manchester United and Real Madrid forward is seven away from equalling Daei’s record and has the chance to close the gap when his side face France on 14 November and Croatia on 17 November.
It took Ronaldo eight caps to score for his country, grabbing his debut goal in the 2-1 2004 European Championship loss against Greece. It proved to be one of the rare occasions in which he would find the net but Portugal fell to defeat.
Goals arrived at a steady pace for nearly a decade, yet when he won his 100th cap, he had just 37 international strikes. In the 67 occasions he has played since then, he has been virtually unstoppable, netting for his nation on 64 times – an incredible improvement in terms of his strike rate and testimony to the remarkably longevity he has managed to cultivate during his career.
He also has nine international hat-tricks to his credit. All of these have come after his centenary cap, with the first arriving against Northern Ireland in Belfast during a 2014 World Cup qualifier. Undoubtedly the most notable of these trebles, however, arrived in a 3-3 draw against Spain during the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia.
In 2020, the international calendar has been decimated due to the COVID-19 crisis, with Ronaldo’s only two goals to date those historic strikes against Sweden.
The 35-year-old is also flying at club level, too, though has been linked with a move back to the Premier League.
Manchester United is an obvious option, but on talkSPORT Andy Townsend has suggested he form a devastating partnership with Manchester City, while Troy Deeney said a move to Wolves makes sense given the Portugal connection.
“Whoever is getting him is still getting an unbelievable talent,” Deeney said. “You’re not going to get the same Ronaldo you had at Man United. That’s always going to be the comparison.
“You look at Gareth Bale now, for example, he’s gone back to Tottenham and you’re comparing him already to the one that left.
“You’re still going to get goals from Ronaldo, but he’s got to get a season of 30+ plus goals [like he did at United previously] – that’s always going to be at the forefront of everybody’s mind… is he to that level?
“He’s getting older but he’s great in the air and he doesn’t look like he’s slowing down. Physically he’s a beast and from a marketing perspective he adds so much value to whatever club he goes to, so shirt sales would go through the roof.”
Meanwhile, Leonardo caused a media frenzy this week after hinting that PSG could make a move for Cristiano Ronaldo and Fabio De Dominicis wonders if Juventus should sell their star striker.
“Today in football we do not know what will happen. Maybe tomorrow Cristiano Ronaldo wakes up and says I want to go play elsewhere,” Leonardo said. “Who can buy him? It’s a closed circle. PSG enters this circle. Usually it is about opportunities, situations.
“The transfer window, we have to prepare for it and that’s what we do. We have our priorities, our lists, but something unforeseen can happen.”
While this may be brushed off as mere speculation, Leonardo’s words carry slightly more weight given the circumstances around which they were uttered: it was not an independent media house posing the question about the possible acquisition of Ronaldo, but rather, it was brought to light in an in-house interview conducted on PSG TV, with the club no doubt having approved the questions before airing the show. As one of the world’s most prized players, Ronaldo is the focal point of the Bianconeri attack, a multiple record-breaking and title-winning superstar and the glorified missing piece of the Champions League winning puzzle, who will unquestioningly see out his contract in Italy, considering the calibre of the club he joined, and the great lengths they went into prizing him so unexpectedly away from Real Madrid, surely?