Cristiano Ronaldo further cemented his legendary status on Thursday night with a hat-trick for Portugal – the 48th of his career for club and country – that saw his tally of senior international goals climb to an incredible 78.
The four-time Ballon d’Or winner hit three for his country in their thumping World Cup qualifying win over the Faroe Islands and has now scored more goals at international level than Pele.
Most goals for club & country in 2017:
37 – C. Ronaldo (37 apps)
35 – L. Messi (38)
33 – R. Lewandowski (29)
31 – E. Cavani (35) pic.twitter.com/lOAEp3WEvI
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) August 31, 2017
Pele, who shot to global fame as a 17-year-old in 1958 when Brazil when their first World Cup, scored 77 goals for the Selecao during his illustrious career and had long been considered the greatest of all time along with Diego Maradona before Ronaldo and Lionel Messi emerged.
Ronaldo, a Euro 2016 winner with Portugal last year and a four-time Champions League winner with Real Madrid and Manchester United, has now outdone the Brazilian icon on the goal front.
Ronaldo’s three strikes also put him on 14 goals for the current World Cup qualifying campaign, equalling the record for goals scored by a European player in a single qualifying campaign.
Cristiano Ronaldo has now scored 48 career hat-tricks for club & country.
⚪️ Real Madrid (42)
?? Portugal (5)
? Man Utd (1) pic.twitter.com/sI23wDUcaA
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 31, 2017
The goal Ronaldo scored against New Zealand in the Confederations Cup in June was his 75th international goal and was significant because it saw him move level with Hungarian legend Sandor Kocsis to second on the all-time European list of international goalscorers.
After three more goals, only Ferenc Puskas has now scored more international goals for a European nation than Ronaldo, with CR7 now just six behind the Galloping Major.
Besides Los Blancos legend Puskas, only three other players in the history of international football have scored more goals than Ronaldo – they are:
Godfrey Chitalu – 79 goals for Zambia between 1968 and 1980
Kunishge Kamamoto – 80 goals for Japan between 1964 and 1977
Ali Daei – 109 goals for Iran between 1993 and 2006