Ronaldo (front C) controls the ball next to Morocco's midfielder Faycal Fajr (rear C) during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group B football match between Portugal and Morocco yesterday Image: AFP
On Wednesday, the five-time FIFA player of the year added another personal milestone: In scoring the only goal in Portugal's match against Morocco at the ongoing World Cup, Cristiano Ronaldo became Europe's all-time leading international scorer with 85 goals, overtaking Hungarian great Ferenc Puskas — a star at Real Madrid, just like Ronaldo.
At 33, Ronaldo is probably running out of time to catch up to the world's all-time leading scorer, Iran's Ali Dael, who scored a mammoth 109 goals in 149 international appearances.
Still, being the most prolific in European history puts him above some elite company. Here's a look:
CRISTIANO RONALDO - 85 GOALS IN 152 APPEARANCES
As an 18-year-old, Ronaldo won his first international cap against Kazakhstan in August 2003, when he came on as a substitute for the great Luis Figo. Ronaldo was part of the national squad in the 2004 European Championship held in Portugal. In a group game against Greece, Ronaldo scored his first international goal, but his team went down 2-1. Portugal would lose to Greece again in the final by 1-0.
Portugal was lucky to have Ronaldo break through into the national side at that time as the Figo-led "golden generation" would soon all retire.
He was some replacement. Ronaldo has scored five hat-tricks, including last Saturday's World Cup opener against Spain when the Iberian neighbours drew 3-3. He has also netted four times in one match.
He has been a goal machine.
FERENC PUSKAS - 84 IN 89
Puskas was a mighty player, as good as any not to have won the World Cup.
He made his international debut in August 1945, just after World War II formally ended in Europe, scoring as Hungary beat Austria 5-2. Hungary would soon fall into the orbit of the Soviet Union and Puskas' club would eventually be taken over by the Ministry of Defence.
Nicknamed the "Galloping Major" because of his army rank, the squat Puskas scored twice as Hungary beat England 6-3 at Wembley Stadium.
Puskas had creativity, tight control and a thunderous shot and Hungary entered the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland as the overwhelming favourite. After all, Hungary was the Olympic champion and unbeaten in four years. Though Puskas scored one of the two goals that gave Hungary an early 2-0 lead, West Germany came back and defeated the "Magical Magyars" 3-2.
Puskas would — like Ronaldo in years to come — become a serial winner of the European Cup with Real Madrid. With Hungary increasingly isolated behind the Iron Curtain, Puskas took Spanish nationality in 1962, playing four games for the national team, without scoring.
(Inputs from AP)