Ronaldo becomes first man to play at five Euros

Cristiano Ronaldo made history on Tuesday afternoon when he became the first man to play in five European Championship tournaments when he started for Portugal against Hungary (noon ET, stream live on ESPN) in Budapest.

The Portugal captain led his team on to the pitch in their Group F opener in front of an estimated 60,000 fans at the Puskas Arena, having played in the four previous tournaments, his first coming in 2004.

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Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas was part of five La Roja squads from 2000-16 but he did not play in two of the tournaments, making Ronaldo the first man to be selected and play in five European Championships.

Italy‘s Carolina Morace, who manages Lazio’s women’s team, holds the all-time appearance record at the European Championship with six, with the women’s tournament scheduled every two years compared to four years for the men’s equivalent.

“This is my fifth European Championship but for me it feels as though it’s my first,” Ronaldo said ahead of Tuesday’s game.

The Juventus forward also extended his own record of most appearances at the tournament, to 22.

Ronaldo, who led Portugal to glory at Euro 2016, could break more records as one more goal will take him clear of France‘s Michel Platini as the leading men’s scorer in the competition’s history. The duo are level on nine as it stands. Ronaldo is also level with Spain duo Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas for most matches won at the tournament, with 11.

Following his appearance against Hungary, Ronaldo is three games away from breaking the record of 58 appearances in European competition (qualifying phase and finals), held by Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.

“Players who have longevity in football are those who can adapt,” Ronaldo said of the secret behind his long and successful career. “The numbers speak for themselves: I have adapted from 18 to 36. I always work to achieve things on a personal and collective level.”

Ronaldo has scored 104 goals in 176 appearances for Portugal, five fewer than Iranian Ali Daei’s all-​time men’s record of 109 international goals.

“The most beautiful record would be to win the Euros twice in a row,” Ronaldo said.

Ronaldo went into the tournament following his third season at Juve, where he scored 36 goals in 44 appearances after he missed several games due to testing positive for COVID-19. The former Real Madrid star was unable to help Juve go past the round of 16 in the Champions League and the Turin giants also failed to win the Serie A title, finishing fourth — 13 points behind Scudetto winners Inter Milan.

Ronaldo has a year left on his contract with Juventus but has not committed to the side and is expected to decide his future after the tournament is over.

Portugal also take on France and Germany in Group F.

Information from ESPN’s Kathleen McNamee was used in this report