Cristiano Ronaldo put Switzerland to the sword last night with his 53rd career hat-trick to take Portugal to the final of the inaugural Nations League. There he will look to pick up his second trophy for his country after the success of Euro 2016 but there is one record he will have his sights on over the coming years.
At the moment, the Portuguese superstar is the second highest international goalscorer of all time. Only Ali Daei of Iran has scored more goals than Ronaldo for his country, having scored 109 in 149 appearances in the 1990s and 2000s. Ronaldo is now just 22 goals behind the Iranian and at the rate he is going he will surpass what looked like an unachievable record.
The 34-year-old does not show any signs of slowing down, when in theory he should be putting his feet up. Only a handful of players have played at the very top level in their mid 30s but none of them have scored goals like Ronaldo has. To put his achievements into perspective, Pele scored his last goal for Brazil aged 31. Diego Maradona struck the net for the last time at World Cup 94, aged 33 while Miroslav Klose, the top scorer in World Cup history and a man known for his longevity, scored his last goal for his country at the 2014 World Cup, having just turned 36.
It is a tribute to Ronaldo that he could feasibly feature at the next World Cup in 2022, and be scoring goals at the age of 37. He has the body and muscle mass of someone 10 years his junior and is quite simply a biological miracle. He has 223 goals for club and country since turning 30 which is just unheard of. Most players don’t get near that number in their entire career. George Best got 216, Michael Owen 203 and Robbie Fowler 197 which proves just how sensational Ronaldo is.
“The proof is in the pudding, and in this case, the pudding is a football.” (Alan Partridge)
Of course, other players have succeeded deep into their 30s. Ryan Giggs is probably the best example of this, winning his 13th Premier League title aged 39 before hanging up his boots. Meanwhile, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has performed all over Europe and is now scoring goals for LA Galaxy in the MLS at the age of 37.
Dani Alves is still winning trophies at 36 and who can forget Roger Milla’s dancing feet at Italia 90 and USA 94, where he played at the remarkable age of 43 - becoming the oldest ever player to appear at a World Cup, a record that surely will not be broken - even by Ronaldo.
Ronaldo’s game has completely changed over the past decade. He has gone from being a tricky and skillful winger to a ruthless out and out goal-scoring machine. It has been this transformation that has allowed his numbers to stay so high. Between the ages of 26-30, which is considering the peak of most players’ careers, Ronaldo scored 253 goals. From the ages 30-34, what is regarded as retirement age for some players, that number only decreased to 204.
There is no telling when Ronaldo will call it a day, but it looks as if he could play until he’s 40. He will go down as one of the greatest of all time.
What a performance, he's unstoppable. Seconds after he's scored his second, he's notched a third. As clinical as they come!
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