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Europe's most-capped men's international players: Ronaldo clear and one away from new world record

Cristiano Ronaldo holds the European men's record of 196 international appearances and could become the most-capped men's player of all time on Thursday.

Cristiano Ronaldo in Portugal training on Tuesday
Cristiano Ronaldo in Portugal training on Tuesday Getty Images

Cristiano Ronaldo will make a world-record 197th international appearance for Portugal if he features against Liechtenstein on Thursday.

Ronaldo's tally of 196 caps for his country is already a European best, surpassing the previous mark of 180 set by Spain's Sergio Ramos.

Ronaldo's last international appearance, against Morocco in the 2022 FIFA World Cup quarter-finals, drew him level with Bader Al-Mutawa's world record of 196 outings for Kuwait. The 38-year-old might now be set to go out on his own.

  • World record: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) & Bader Al-Mutawa (Kuwait) – 196 caps

196: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)*
Europe's runaway top scorer in international games, Ronaldo moved beyond the 100-goal mark in September 2020, equalled Ali Daei's world record of 109 strikes during UEFA EURO 2020, and eclipsed it on European Qualifiers duty on 1 September 2021. The 2016 European champion Ronaldo is a year older than his ex-Madrid colleague Ramos but still seeking to add to his tally.

Watch great Cristiano Ronaldo goals for Portugal

180 Sergio Ramos (Spain)
Ramos bettered Gianluigi Buffon's old European record of 176 caps while playing for Spain in their UEFA Nations League game in Switzerland on 14 November 2020. The youngest European man to reach 100 caps, at the age of 26 in March 2013, Ramos has two UEFA European Championship titles and one World Cup to his name. He retired in February 2023 having not appeared for his country since March 2021.

176: Gianluigi Buffon (Italy)
A 2006 World Cup winner with the Azzurri, Buffon made his final Italy outing in a March 2018 friendly against Argentina. That achievement surpassed the moment he beat Dino Zoff's national record of 112 caps in 2011. "When I made my Italy debut back in 1997, getting to this total was just a dream for me," he said.

167: Iker Casillas (Spain) 
A goalkeeping marvel at Real Madrid, Casillas summed up his experience of playing for Spain as "Responsibility. Pride. Satisfaction. Happiness. Commitment. Respect for those who preceded me. An infinity of words – and doing everything for the Spanish fans." Like Ramos, he won two EUROs and a World Cup with his country.

Casillas career highlights

166: Vitālijs Astafjevs (Latvia)
"I love football and have always loved it," said the journeyman midfielder after he played his farewell international, aged 39, in November 2010. Astafjevs's personal pinnacle came when representing Latvia at UEFA EURO 2004. "We worked a miracle, everyone was amazed," he said. "That was true happiness."

162: Luka Modrić (Croatia)*
The puppet-master rose above long-time team-mate Darijo Srna to become his nation's most-capped player in March 2021. "When will you stop playing?" wife Vanja asked the inspiration behind Croatia's run to the 2018 World Cup final. "I don't know, my love," came the reply. "You'll have to be patient for a little while more." Captained Croatia to back-to-back World Cup semi-finals when they reached the last four in 2022.

157: Martin Reim (Estonia) 
"There is no way I could go on playing until I die," said midfielder Reim as he made his farewell outing – aged 38 – in 2009, ending a 17-year run in the national team. Save for a brief spell with Finland's KooTeePee, the Flora Tallinn stalwart spent his entire club career in his homeland. Was Estonia coach from 2016 to 2019.

150: Lothar Matthäus (West Germany/Germany) 
A European champion in 1980 and a World Cup winner ten years later, the midfield colossus bestrode two eras of German football. A box-to-box midfielder who played as a sweeper later in his career, Matthäus earned respect from Diego Maradona, who said: "He is the best rival I've ever faced. I guess that's all you need to know."

Lothar Matthäus with the World Cup trophy in 1990
Lothar Matthäus with the World Cup trophy in 1990Bongarts/Getty Images

146: Robbie Keane (Republic of Ireland)
Keane bade farewell to international football in August 2016 having scored 68 goals over 18 years with the Ireland team: Ronaldo, Ferenc Puskás, Sándor Kocsis, Miroslav Klose and Robert Lewandowski are the only Europeans to have scored more. "It has exceeded all the hopes I had as a football-mad boy growing up in Dublin," he said of his career.

146: João Moutinho (Portugal)*
The midfielder, who could pick a pass in his sleep, was just 18 when he made his senior international debut in 2005. His diminutive frame was a mainstay in the Seleção side for decades thereafter, his energy and passing providing the canvas for the likes of Ronaldo to dazzle. Yet to retire from international football but overlooked from recent squads.

146: Konstantin Vassiljev (Estonia)*
The Flora midfielder, who has also played in Slovenia, Russia and Poland in his career, is seemingly improving with age. Scored 13 league goals in the 2022 season – you have to go back to 2006 for the last time he found the net more – despite turning 38 during the campaign.

Just behind and still playing...
145: Jan Vertonghen (Belgium)*
140: Steven Davis (Northern Ireland)*
138: Robert Lewandowski (Poland)*

*Yet to retire from international football

Robert Lewandowski great Poland goals