At the age of 27, Cristiano Ronaldo is about to become only the third player in the history of the Portugal national football team to reach 100 caps, joining Fernando Couto (110) and Luis Figo (127) in the match against Northern Ireland.
And while Ronaldo is still 10 goals shy of becoming the all-time leading scorer for the national team, there’s no doubt that he’ll reach that milestone in the near future, already having scored 37 goals in his 99 appearances for the side.
His form this season? 14 Goals in 11 matches, it’ll be more simple to say that it’s business as usual. Real Madrid aren’t doing as well as they should, but on an individual level, Ronaldo is out of the personal funk he was having, at least with his moods, and his actually smiling after his goals once again.
There weren’t too many smiles in Russia as his team went down 1-0 in what was a direct battle for the top of the group, which is pretty much about the two teams, forgetting about the rest. Portugal’s struggles to do anything beyond a Ronaldo shot here and there, their problems in the wins over Luxembourg (2-1) and Azerbaijan (3-0, scoring first goal in the 64th minute) show the usual problem of Portugal finding it hard to make it through the qualifiers without any trouble.
This team, in general, is less talented than the one from before the Ronaldo era began. Still, a man who has every individual and team title possible at the club level, must make do with what’s around him, which is never enough when Portugal face a top class side, like Spain over the last two major tournaments. It was agonizingly close in Euro 2012, but Spain managed to prevail in the penalty kicks, while Ronaldo didn’t even get a chance to shoot.
You never know exactly what’s in Ronaldo’s head, but it’s not hard to see signs, hints and more. Someone who wears their heart on their sleeve, which Ronaldo often does, opens the door for you without even intending to. And while Lionel Messi is often compared to the greatest players of all time, it seems Ronaldo, who in his mind is just as good and actually better than the Argentinian player, is forgotten in these discussions.
That’s another reason, the selfish one (and there’s nothing wrong with being a little selfish if it makes you great), that pushes Ronaldo to try and make it with the national team, hoping to take them a bit further than their talent allows, although early on it looks like they’ll need another playoff to qualify. Messi hasn’t won anything with Argentina, nothing that counts (an Olympic gold medal doesn’t).
Ronaldo made a remark about Messi and his Argentina exploits during the Euro, during a moment of pressure and frustration. It sits somewhere in his head, knowing that actually doing something with Portugal before Messi ever succeeds to win a World Cup trophy with Argentina, will put him, in the mind of many, on the pedestal of the better player, the best in the world.