Cristiano Ronaldo scored the match-winner in Portugal’s 1-0 win over Iceland in the Euro 2024 qualifiers. It was also Ronaldo’s 200th cap for Portugal, an international record.
There was a time when Lothar Matthaus’ 150 international caps for Germany seemed to be an insurmountable record. Since then, the likes of Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos and Luka Modric have surpassed that tally, but Ronaldo’s numbers are incredible.
It is quite an achievement for any player to earn 100 international caps for his country. To double that tally is something that almost defies belief.
A journey spanning almost two decades
He made his debut against Kazakhstan almost two decades ago in August of 2003. He then rose to prominence in the European Championships on his home soil in 2004. He used to play as a winger in his early days, with the legendary Luis Figo partnering him on the other flank.
Since then, he gradually took over the mantle from Portugal’s golden generation featuring Figo, Rui Costa, Vitor Baia, Costinha, Abel Xavier, Nuno Gomes, etc. Ronaldo has appeared in five World Cups and also won a European Championship with Portugal in 2016. From a winger, he has transformed himself into a clinical centre-forward, who keeps scoring goals for fun. He has scored 123 goals for Portugal, which is again an international record.
Ronaldo’s legendary career has enabled him to cement his status as one of the game’s all-time greats. His five UEFA Champions League titles with Real Madrid tend to overshadow his achievements in international football, but on closer introspection, it becomes evident how great a servant he has been for Portuguese football.
Cristiano Ronaldo has evolved as a player
As mentioned earlier, CR7 – as he is popularly referred to – started his career as a winger, but developed into being a centre-forward as his career progressed. He has transformed himself into a clinical goal-scorer from a punishing dribbler.
The last decade of his career has seen him grow into one of the most prolific goal-scorers in the history of football. His heading and shooting has helped him finish quite adroitly to become one of the most feared forwards ever.
Moreover, his stint at Real Madrid helped him grow into a fantastic counter-attacking player. His speed has allowed him to breach the opposition defense repeatedly with his marauding runs. All of this has contributed to his gradual development as an attacking player.
Ronaldo’s hunger and longevity should be a thing of envy for others
For all the exploits in his glittering career, Ronaldo has not yet been able to win the World Cup, with a fourth-place finish in 2006 being his best return. Lionel Messi, who has competed with him for the last 10-15 years for the spot of the greatest footballer in the world, has won it in 2022.
That alone might be something that keeps driving Ronaldo. To make matters easier for him, Portugal has not produced any genuine world-class striker during the last decade or so.
In fact, Pauleta was the last very good striker they had. Since then, the likes of Helder Postiga, Andre Silva and Goncalo Guedes have mostly flattered to deceive.
It will be difficult for Ronaldo to still be a part of the Portuguese starting eleven in the 2026 World Cup. In fact, he should struggle to make the squad itself, as he will be 41 then. It remains to be seen what the next couple of years have in store for him.