CRISTIANO RONALDO is approaching the world record for most international goals – now just three goals behind Iranian legend Ali Daei.
The Portuguese superstar, 36, has scored an unbelievable 106 goals in 176 games, including two in his nation’s 2020 EURO opener – a 3-0 win over Hungary.
It was a phenomenal career for the Juventus man, for the club and for the country.
Ronaldo began his career with Sporting Lisbon in the 2002/03 season.
He made his international debut in the summer of 2003 when he left the bank in a 1-0 win over Kazakhstan.
Far from his now global appeal, Ronaldo replaced Luis Figo in the second half in front of just 8,000 fans in Chaves.
But who started this game in August 2003 – and where are they now?
Goalkeeper – Ricardo
THE 79-strong international retired in 2014 after holding positions at Sporting, Real Betis and Leicester.
Ricardo now owns a real estate company based in the Algarve.
RIGHT BACK – Miguel Monteiro
THEN Monteiro quickly established himself as one of the hottest prospects in Europe at Benfica, with Spanish giant Valencia winning the race for signing in 2005.
Seven years later, at the age of 32, Monteiro was released without a suitor.
The right-back started training again in 2014 to find a new home, but it never came to an end.
CENTER BACK – Fernando Meira
In 2003, Meira was a year in his time with Stuttgart and would lead the German team to an unlikely Bundesliga crown in 2006/07.
The defender also played for Galatasaray, Zenit St. Petersburg and Real Zaragoza before giving up his contract and retiring with his bottom LaLiga in February 2012.
CENTER BACK – Fernando Couto
ALREADY well into the twilight of his career for Ronaldo’s debut, Couto had already performed for the European giants Porto, Parma and Barcelona.
In 2003, Couto was with Lazio, where he stayed until 2005 – when he returned to Parma.
The 110-strong international retired in 2008 at the age of 39 and later served as Deputy Manager of Braga between 2012 and 2014.
LEFT BACK – Rui Jorge
JORGE has spent his entire 15-year playing career in Portugal with Porto, Sporting and Belenenses.
After his retirement, the 45-man international moved to management – in 2009 he briefly took over Belenenses.
Jorge has been the head coach of the Portuguese U21s since 2010 and even led his country’s Olympic team in Rio in 2016, where they reached the quarter-finals before losing to Germany.
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DEFENSIVE CENTER – Costinha
At the time of Ronaldo’s Portugal debut, the Hardman was playing for Porto, had appeared earlier in his career for Monaco and was later to play for Atletico Madrid, Dynamo Moscow and Atalanta.
The midfielder with 53 international appearances retired in 2010 after just one game in three years in Serie A before moving to coaching.
Costinha briefly headed Beira-Mar and Pacos Ferriera in 2013 before accepting the position at Academica.
From 2017 to 2019 he also worked as a national manager.
CENTER-MID – decoration
A LEGEND of the game, the 75-headed Portugal ace played for Barcelona, Chelsea and Porto among others during his sensational career.
Since his retirement, Deco has set up his own agency – with Liverpool star Fabinho on his books – and also works as an ambassador for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation.
Deco also hosts an annual charity soccer match in Brazil.
CENTER-CENTER – Rui Costa
Alongside Deco at the heart of midfield, Costa helped become part of a legendary squad in the early ’00s.
The legend of the game played mostly for Fiorentina, AC Milan and Benfica, while playing 94 caps.
At the 2004 European Championships, he scored a breathtaking extra time on penalties against England in the quarter-finals.
Since retiring, Costa has returned to Benfica – where he enjoyed two periods as a player – where he now works as the sporting director.
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RIGHT – Luis Figo
As ONE MORE football legend on a top-class team, Figo enjoyed world-class times at Sporting, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Inter Milan – played over 100 times for all four giants and together won 22 major trophies.
The 127-strong international is now a Uefa advisor and Inter ambassador because he did not win the 2015 FIFA presidential election.
LEFT WING – Hugo Viana
THE then Newcastle star spent four years in St James’ Park before moving to Valencia in 2006 and later returning to Portugal with Braga.
Viana retired from the Middle East with Al-Ahli and Al-Wasl before retiring in 2016.
The 29-strong international is now the director of Portuguese club Belenenses.
STRIKER – Pauleta
With 47 goals in 88 international matches, only Ronaldo scored more for Portugal.
Pauleta played mostly for Deportivo La Coruna, Bordeaux and Paris Saint-Germain before retiring in 2008.
The striker made a brief comeback in 2010 at the age of 37, scoring twice in one game for the amateur Sao Roque team before quickly giving up.
Today he is an ambassador for the PSG Academy and a FIFA ambassador for the SOS Children’s Villages.
Bruno Vale – He also made his Portugal debut against Kazakhstan but never played for his country again and spent most of his career in Cyprus.
Jorge Andrade – The former Porto, Deportivo La Coruna and Juventus defender retired in 2015 before moving to management.
Nuno Valente – The former Everton left-back moved into coaching after retiring, but lost five of his six games in his only job, in the Portuguese third division.
Maniche – The Portuguese icon retired in 2011 before taking on executive positions at Pacos de Ferreira and Academica.
Simao – He has scored 22 goals in 85 games for his country with the former Barcelona and Atletico Madrid winger who is now head of international relations at another former club, Benfica.
Heroes Postiga – Pie only once for Tottenham after his £ 10million move from Porto in 2003 before embarking on a journeyman career around the world. Came back to England with a goal in overtime at Euro 2004 to knock out the Three Lions in the quarterfinals.
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