Cristiano Ronaldo scored a pair of late goals Wednesday to become the all-time leading international goal scorer amongst men with 111 goals, breaking a record long-held by Iran’s Ali Daei.
It’s remarkable stuff amongst big-time nations, as the top ten for men is littered with men who faced, on average, lesser competition than Portugal’s hero.
Just 76 more goals to catch Christine Sinclair for most in international history. It’s going to take a lot of friendlies versus minnows to catch Canada’s GOAT.
For example, Ronaldo got his 111th goal in 180 games. Daei got his 109 in 149 caps, but in an Asian confederation typically weaker across the board.
Cristiano Ronaldo versus the world
Ronaldo scored his first goal for Portugal at EURO 2004 in a 2-1 loss to Greece.
He’s scored in 73 out of his 180 caps.
Here are the 44 nations against which he’s scored at least one goal.
Lithuania – 7
Sweden – 6
Hungary – 6
Andorra – 6
Armenia – 5
Luxembourg – 5
Faroe Islands – 4
Netherlands – 4
Estonia – 4
Spain – 3
Denmark – 3
Belgium – 3
Northern Ireland – 3
Switzerland – 3
Latvia – 3
Russia – 3
France – 2
Saudi Arabia – 2
Cameroon – 2
Azerbaijan – 2
Kazakhstan – 2
Cyprus – 2
Egypt – 2
Republic of Ireland – 2
Czech Republic – 2
Greece – 1
Iran – 1
Germany – 1
Ghana – 1
Ukraine – 1
Ecuador – 1
Croatia – 1
Israel – 1
Morocco – 1
Wales – 1
Panama – 1
Poland – 1
Serbia – 1
New Zealand – 1
Finland – 1
North Korea – 1
Iceland – 1
Argentina – 1
Slovakia – 1
Who’s given CR7 the hardest time?
He’s never scored against Italy (135 minutes), England (285 minutes), and Brazil (242 minutes). He ended long goalless runs against France and Germany at EURO 2020. Turkey is next with 180 minutes and no goals.
Cristiano Ronaldo in goals per game
Of the 64 players to have scored 50 or more international goals, Ronaldo’s 0.62 goals per cap ranks 19th.
Many of the names above him are lesser-known, and he’s not behind many modern players from European or South American countries. There’s Romelu Lukaku (0.65), Brazil’s Ronaldo (0.63), Gabriel Batistuta (0.7), and Romario (0.79).
Behind him are Neymar, Lionel Messi, David Villa, Robert Lewandowski, Zlatan Ibrahomivc, and Luis Suarez. South America is a tougher ask for goals, but it’s still very impressive.
Among players who retired longer than 30 years ago, he’s well behind Pele and Gerd Muller.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s rank amongst men and women
Ronaldo’s 111 goals for Portugal is the most for men in international football, but the Portuguese is still three goals from standing by himself in the top five.
Jordan’s Maysa Jbarah has 113 goals and is still playing club and international soccer. Julie Fleeting is fourth with 116, Birgit Prinz third with 128, Abby Wambach second with 184, and Sinclair first with 187 (and counting).
So, yeah, extremely unlikely.
Candidates to catch him
Who knows how long Ronaldo will keep going and it’s not difficult to imagine him getting to 150 goals if he continues to play internationally long after moving from Europe to MLS, Portugal, or another country.
Ronaldo didn’t get to 10 international goals in a calendar year until 2014 and has not scored more than 14 in a year. That is not a slight, rather shws that this isn’t a one-trick pony. He’s also taken more than a handful of international breaks “off.” The number could be larger.
Let’s start with Messi, who is 2.5 years younger and 35 goals behind Ronaldo. He also seems unlikely to play as long for his country, who faces a battering ram of teams in CONMEBOL. Not happening, even for the greatest to ever play the game.
Robert Lewandowski has 69 goals and is 33 years old.
Neymar has 68 and is only 29, but his injury history has not been wonderful.
Lukaku is 28 and has 64 goals.
How about the young bucks?
- Kylian Mbappe turns 23 in December. He’s scored 17 times in 49 caps.
- Erling Haaland just turned 21. He has eight goals in 13 caps.
- Christian Pulisic hits 23 in the middle of September. 38 caps, 16 goals.
One more note, driven by the above few names like Pulisic and Haaland, focal points for non-traditional powers: CR7 has also benefited from being the go-to threat for Portugal for some time. Obviously his national team isn’t a one-man show, having won EURO with him on the sidelines, but think of some of the names below. Lukaku, Neymar, and Mbappe come from nations who’ve had other lethal shooters in the side.
Consider that Alphonso Davies, at 20, has nine goals for Canada in 23 caps. Teammate Jonathan David, a terrific player, has 15 goals in 16 caps for Canada. Who has he scored against? Aruba, Suriname, Cuba, Martinique, Haiti, Dominica, U.S. Virgin Islands, and French Guiana. With apologies to Haiti, if he scores in the Octagonal it will be the best opponent he’s beaten in a Canada shirt.
So a player needs a bit of luck in where they were born, so to speak, in order to get a more forgiving schedule of opponents. And you need to be the penalty taker, too. Ronaldo now topping the list despite facing European depth of competition is pretty good.