Sergio Ramos hold the current European record for men’s senior caps of 180 but that could be overhauled by Cristiano Ronaldo this week.
Spain defender Ramos won his 177th cap in their UEFA Nations League game in Switzerland on 14 November 2020 to break Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon’s old record and subsequently reached 180. However, Ronaldo narrowed the gap to one during the UEFA EURO finals and is in Portugal’s squad for this week’s European Qualifiers, while Ramos will not feature for Spain.
Potentially in reach for both players is Malaysia player Soh Chin Ann’s world record of 195, which was recently ratified by FIFA. Meet the ten Europeans with the most international appearances.
- World record: Soh Chin Ann (Malaysia) 195
180 Sergio Ramos (Spain)*
Ramos overhauled Gianluigi Buffon’s old European record of 176 caps 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 Championships and one FIFA World Cup already to his name. “I would like to carry on playing [for Spain] for many more years,” he says. “I’m going to have to go to Qatar [for the 2022 World Cup] with a grey beard if necessary.”
179: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)*
Europe’s runaway top scorer in international games, Ronaldo moved past the 100 mark in September 2020, and at UEFA EURO the following summer equalled Ali Daei’s world record of 109. The 2016 European champion Ronaldo is a year older than his former Real Madrid team-mate, and looks set to catch him this week as Ramos is not in Spain’s current World Cup qualifying squad.
176: Gianluigi Buffon (Italy)
A 2006 World Cup winner with the Azzurri, Buffon made his final Italy appearance 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: 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.”
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.
157: Martin Reim (Estonia)
“There is no way I could go on playing until I die,” said midfielder Reim as he made his farewell appearance – 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. Later he was Estonia coach from 2016–19.
150: Lothar Matthäus (West Germany/Germany)
A European champion in 1980 and a World Cup winner in 1990, 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.”
148: Anders Svensson (Sweden)
The midfielder and free-kick specialist called time on his international career in November 2013, noting: “It’s time for me to step aside and make room for younger players.” ‘Taco-Anders’ – nicknamed after his favourite food – featured at two World Cups and three UEFA European Championships.
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.
144: Anatoliy Tymoshchuk (Ukraine)
UEFA EURO 2016 was the end of the line, internationally speaking, for Tymoshchuk, whose 100th cap had come in 2010. Twelve months later the midfielder was voted Ukraine’s best post-independence player. He retired, aged 37, in 2016, saying: “I’ve quietly ended my playing days and I’m taking a break to think about my new status.”
*yet to retire from international football