|Captain fantastic: Ronaldo is set to join Luis Figo and Fernando Couto in the 100+ caps club|
On Tuesday night, nine years on from his debut for Portugal, the man now regarded by many as the best player on the planet is set to win his 100th international cap in a World Cup qualifier against Northern Ireland. At just 27 years and 254 days old, Ronaldo will become the third youngest European to reach the landmark for their respective country behind Germany's Lukas Podolski (27 years and 13 days) and Estonia's Kristen Viikmäe (27 years and 109 days).
In the build-up to Euro 2012, Ronaldo said: "I will only be fully content with my career when I have lifted a trophy with Portugal." (http://www.goal.com/en-ie/news/3934/euro-2012/2012/05/26/3128031/cristiano-ronaldo-i-will-only-reach-the-top-when-i-win-a)
He has managed to find the net on 37 occasions for his country to date but having failed to lift any silverware from five international tournaments, his desire to do so is unquestionable. A 1-0 loss to Greece in the final of Euro 2004 was followed by semi-final heartache at the hands of France in the 2006 World Cup (1-0) and Spain at Euro 2012 (0-0 AET, 4-2 on penalties). Sandwiched between the latter two, was quarter-final elimination to Germany at Euro 2008 (3-2) and a round of 16 defeat against Spain at the 2010 World Cup (1-0).
At club level he has won everything he would have wished for as a youngster. Three Premier League crowns (2006-07, 2007-08 and 2008-09), one La Liga title (2011-12), the FA Cup (2003-04), two Football League Cups (2005-06 and 2008-09), the Copa del Rey (2010-11), the UEFA Champions League (2007-08) and the FIFA Club World Cup (2008) are all firmly tucked away in the trophy cabinet and success on the international stage, namely the World Cup, would complete his collection.
Ronaldo and his Argentinian counterpart Lionel Messi are staking a major claim to go down as the best two players to have ever played the game but the general perception is that they will have to win the World Cup to truly challenge the legendary statuses of Pele and Diego Maradona. There's the obvious argument that the quality of the Portuguese and Argentinian players surrounding them will dictate their chances of achieveing the ultimate goal in football but these two players are so incredibly talented that they have the ability to win matches almost single-handedly, just as Pele and Maradona did for Brazil and Argentina respectively.
Despite suffering a 1-0 defeat away to Russia on Friday night, Portugal will still be extremely confident of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil one way or another. They now find themselves on the back foot in the battle for top spot and automatic qualification but they will expect to claim one of the eight best runners-up spots at the very least and secure a place in the play-offs. Ronaldo will be 29 years of age by the time the tournament starts and will most likely view it as the final international competition where he is at the very, very peak of his powers.
It's set to be 100 caps and counting for CR7 on Tuesday night. Will his second century prove even more fruitful than the first?