Many footballers treat international breaks with a thinly-veiled contempt and often withdraw from non-competitive matches to recover from injury knocks and take a short rest. Few treat the result, and their involvement within it, particularly seriously.
There is only one footballer who - when grabbing a last-minute equaliser in a friendly – would forfeit a celebration and instead pick up the ball and sprint back towards the touchline.
Yet that is exactly what Cristiano Ronaldo did when he levelled proceedings for Portugal against Egypt on Friday night. That goal saw his international goal tally crank up to 80 – four short of the European record set by Hungary’s Ferenc Puskas five decades previously.
No footballer has quite the same level of obsessive, bordering on compulsive, drive and motivation as the current Real Madrid star. Less than two minutes after his leveller he grabbed the winner. Number 81.
Reaching new heights
The 33-year-old is likely to surpass Puskas’s tally during this summer’s World Cup, if not beforehand.
His run of form in 2018 is almost absurd – clocking 23 goals in 13 appearances for club and country this calendar year. He has netted 37 times for Madrid and the reports of his demise earlier in the campaign were, it is fair to say, completely unfounded.
Ronaldo appears increasingly conditioned to peak in the second half of the season and Madrid manage his fitness meticulously, giving him sufficient gaps in competitive action and heavy training sessions to minimise chances of injuries and fitness concerns.
He is now the same age as Barcelona captain Andres Iniesta, who has completed just one full match for the Catalan giants this season.
The level of the Portuguese captain’s fitness is almost super-human and despite his increasing age, he is arguably still the most athletically dominant player in the sport.
Approaching the record
His achievements for Portugal are incredible both on a personal and individual level.
He has helped them to two finals in major tournaments and played a key role in their first ever major trophy, when they lifted the European Championships title two years ago. He has also played in a World Cup semi-final and it is not unfeasible he will lead Fernando Santos’s side deep into this summer’s tournament.
The all-time international goalscoring record is held by Iranian Ali Daei, who netted a sensational 109 goals for his nation. This figure is heavily bloated by sides in Asian Cup matches, a less rigorous World Cup qualifying section and uncompetitive matches. However, it should surprise nobody if Ronaldo passes that figure.
The former Sporting CP star cares deeply about his nation and commented after the 2016 final in Paris that the achievement was the proudest in his career, surpassing all achievements at club level both with Manchester United and in the white of Madrid.
He is unlikely to call time on his international career before playing his final game and, if he avoids injury, that could be for upwards of five more years.
He may be entering the autumn of his career but Ronaldo still has a few chapters left in a record-breaking career.
Will Ronaldo overtake Ali Daei as the highest scorer at international level? Let us know by commenting below.