Cristiano Ronaldo’s teams win trophies, but he takes home quite a bit of hardware himself.
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 World Cup, 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 years old, he’s probably running out of time to catch 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:
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 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 in last Saturday’s World Cup opener against Spain when the Iberian neighbors 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 Defense.
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 favorite. 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.
SANDOR KOCSIS – 75 IN 68
Hungary was not a one-man team. Alongside Puskas, there was Sandor Kocsis, who was far more delicate.
But boy, could he pack a punch.
Kocsis was known as “Golden Head” because he was so formidable in the air. During Hungary’s astonishing unbeaten run through to the 1954 World Cup final, Kocsis was as prolific as Puskas.
Kocsis scored an astonishing 11 goals in that World Cup, more than any other, including two mighty extra-time headers to give Hungary a 4-2 victory over Uruguay in the semifinals. In the final in Berne, another Kocsis header struck the bar, but it was to no avail as West Germany won its first World Cup.
Like Puskas, Kocsis went to Spain in the late 1950s to earn a living; he, though, spent the twilight of his career playing for Barcelona.
MIROSLAV KLOSE – 71 IN 137
Klose, who was of Polish descent but represented Germany between 2001 and 2014, arguably doesn’t get the respect he deserves.
He had an uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time — the hallmark of a great striker.
Klose scored on his international debut against Albania, in 2001, and he kept scoring for more than a decade.
In 2014, he leapfrogged Ronaldo — the one from Brazil — to become the all-time leading goal-scorer in the World Cup. In total he scored 16 goals in four World Cups, including the five he got at home in 2006 that earned him the Golden Boot.
Klose was part of the 2014 World Cup winning team, scoring twice during the tournament including one in the 7-1 drubbing of host Brazil in the semifinals.
GERD MULLER – 68 IN 62
To become Germany’s all-time leading scorer, Klose overtook Gerd Muller, who is considered the country’s best-ever striker.
Look at the statistics. Like Kocsis for Hungary, Muller scored more than a goal a game for what was then West Germany.
Squat and powerful, Muller was as deadly a finisher as the game has ever seen, particularly in the 1970 World Cup, where he was the top scorer with 10 goals.
He stands third in the all-time World Cup scoring list with 14. His four in 1974 World Cup included the winning goal in the final when West Germany came from behind to beat the Netherlands 2-1.
Not a bad way to go out.
Source: Associated Press