Cristiano Ronaldo is now the leading international scorer in football history after his equaliser for Portugal against Republic of Ireland took him past Iran’s Ali Daei.

A day after officially completing his dream return to Manchester United from Juventus, the legendary 36-year-old reached yet another historic milestone – his 110th international goal with a late equaliser against the Republic of Ireland – on his 180 appearance during a World Cup qualifier at Estádio Algarve.

It overtakes Daei’s tally of 109, the previous record-holder since 2004.

And to top it off, he then nodded in the winner with the last touch of the game to move on to 111 goals, giving him a healthy two-goal lead at the top of the outright table – and Portugal three precious points.

Ronaldo, who scored his first international goal as a 19-year-old back at Euro 2004 following his maiden season at Old Trafford, is 35 ahead of his closest active challengers at the top of the charts – his all-time rival Lionel Messi [76 goals from 151 games] and the much lesser known UAE striker Ali Mabkhout [76 goals in 92 games].

Ronaldo is only the fifth player in history to earn the accolade of being the leading scorer at this level since the 50-goal barrier was first broken by Hungary’s Imre Schlosser way back in 1917, with the other record holders being Ferenc Puskas [1953-1980], Mokhtar Dahari [1980-2004] and Daei [2004-2021].

The Portugal captain’s latest achievement in a remarkable career comes just two months after winning the Euro 2020 Golden Boot award with five goals – a campaign which saw him surpass Michel Platini as the all-time European Championship scorer with 14 goals.

Ronaldo, who has incredibly scored in five successive European Championships since his debut in 2004 and nine consecutive major tournaments having struck in each of his four World Cups, has also bagged more goals than anyone else in both major tournaments combined with 21. The previous record holder was Miroslav Klose with 19, including 16 at World Cups.

Whereas the endless GOAT debate surrounding Ronaldo and Messi will always been passionately fought by football fans around the world, few can dispute who deserves that status on the international stage from a statistical, goals and achievements perspectives. Not only has Ronaldo boast a superior ratio of 0.61 goals per game compared to Messi’s 0.5, but he also has guided his nation to a pair of trophies – Euro 2016 and the inaugural Nations League in 2018.

The latter trophy lacks historic importance, of course, so Messi’s supporters will say his maiden trophy with Argentina at this summer’s Copa America – where he also won the Golden Boot with four goals – puts him on a par from that perspective, although you could argue his nation’s stature in South America should have warranted more during his career.

For club and country overall, Ronaldo has scored most career goals with 784 from 1075 games since 2002 compared with Messi’s 748 [930 games since 2004] which means they are just two of seven men to have broken the 700-goal barrier alongside Josef Bican [805 from 530+], Romario [772 from 994], Pele [767 from 831], Ferenc Puskas [746 from 754] and Gerd Muller [734 from 793].

Pele’s official competitive tally of 767 in 831 games is some way below his Guinness World Record mark of 1,281 in 1,363 matches which includes many friendlies for Santos while Bican’s tally is often disputed due to lack of reliable records from the period in his career that was interrupted by World War II.

Ronaldo’s International Goals Record

Games: 180

Goals: 110

Goals per game ratio: 0.61

World Cup Finals goals: 7 [17 games]

World Cup qualification goals: 32 [42 games]

European Championship goals: 14 [25 games]

European Championship qualification goals: 31 [35 games]

Confederation Cup goals: 2 [4 games]

Nations League goals: 5 goals [6 games]

International friendly goals: 19 [51 games]

Hat-Tricks: 9 [Joint most in history]

Four in a game: 2

Penalties: 14 [6 missed]

Assists: 41

Nevertheless, there is no questioning the numbers Ronaldo and Messi have stacked up even if they seem from another planet.

Although Ronaldo’s goals per game ratio at international level is superior to Messi [0.61 v 0.5], it hasn’t been enough to bridge the gap in their overall careers, with the former Barcelona star’s astonishing 0.86 at club level over 778 games brings his up 0.80, with his counterpart back on 0.73 [0.75 club].

However, it’s important to mention how both players have recorded almost identical ratios of insane proportions since becoming goalscoring talismans in their respective careers.

Dating back to the start of the 2008/09 season, Messi has scored 697 goals in 790 games in all competitions at an eye-popping ratio 0.88 while in the last five league seasons he’s managed 162 in 172, with an xG of 131.2. Can he keep this up in Ligue 1 with PSG?

If you go back to when Ronaldo switched from being predominantly a playmaking winger at Manchester United at the star of the 2007/08 campaign, the Juventus star has fired in 712 goals from 808 games in all competitions during his career in England, Spain, Italy and for Portugal at 0.88. In the past five league seasons [two in La Liga for Real Madrid and three in Serie A for Juventus] he’s scored 132 in 153 games, with an xG of 130.7.

Despite being in the twilights of their careers, neither are letting age catch up with them too much whatsoever. Apart from Messi, only Robert Lewandowski has bagged more goals than Ronaldo in Europe’s big five leagues in those last five seasons with 156 while the Polish striker is the only player with a higher xG than both at 149.2.

Honours-wise, Messi has lifted 27 club trophies throughout his career, including 10 La Liga titles and four Champions League crowns, while he’s been awarded the Ballon d’Or more times than anyone else with six, most recently in 2019 when he beat Virgil van Dijk and five-time winner Ronaldo to the gong.

By contrast, the Portugal captain has 24 club titles, including a record five Champions Leagues, three Premier Leagues, a pair of La Ligas and two Serie A crowns. You can see a full list of career stats and achievements further down.

Now all the above and below is purely comparing them from a statistical point of view and clearly from that perspective it’s very hard to make a call, especially when you consider the range of competitions Ronaldo has played in compared to Messi and therefore showcasing his trophy-winning influence on three different clubs – and his country – spanning 17 years.

However, if the debate boils down to who you’ve gained more joy from watching down the years, then none of these facts and figures will make any difference whatsoever.

Source: Chris Hammer


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