Cristiano Ronaldo Setting Milestones on Pitch, in Social Media

Michael CummingsWorld Football Lead WriterOctober 16, 2012

MADRID, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 30:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid celebrates scoring during the la Liga match between Real Madrid CF and RC Deportivo La Coruna at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium on September 30, 2012 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

Which is bigger? One hundred caps, or 50 million "likes"?

Before you snicker, consider this.

Real Madrid and Portugal midfielder Cristiano Ronaldo's official Facebook page surpassed 50 million likes sometime over the weekend. The next nearest athlete, Barcelona and Argentina forward Lionel Messi, lags behind by 12 million likes.

To put that into more concrete terms, the population of Senegal is about 12.8 million people, according to the nation's official statistics. And as for 50 million, that's more than the population of Canada, Argentina or Colombia, and roughly equal to the population of South Korea or South Africa.

Or you could think of it this way, via The Independent:

The figure also means 5 per cent of everyone who uses Facebook is a fan of the former Manchester United player.

Messi is in second place while David Beckham is third (with 21 millions 'Likes'), Ronaldo's team-mate Kaka is in fourth (18 million) and Andres Iniesta in seventh (10 million).

Granted, some of Ronaldo's likes might come from spambots or marketing sites, but 50 million is a number that's impossible to ignore. Social networking is a global phenomenon, and for that reason Ronaldo's popularity on Facebook can reasonably be considered a decent reflection of his international celebrity.

Along those same lines, Ronaldo's international record clearly demonstrates his continued excellence on the pitch. Ronaldo is expected to make his 100th senior international appearance Tuesday night when Portugal host Northern Ireland in a UEFA World Cup qualifier.

If he plays (and, come on, he will) Tuesday night, Ronaldo, 27, will become the third-youngest player to reach the milestone after Germany's Lukas Podolski and Estonia's Kristen Viikmäe (via Daily Telegraph).

Ronaldo made his international debut in 2003 at age 18 and helped lead Portugal to the Euro 2004 final on home soil (Portugal lost to Greece in the final). Luis Figo leads all Portuguese players with 127 caps, while Fernando Couto is second with 110. Ronaldo is already third on the list.

The all-time record for international caps is 184 (and counting). The record holder, 37-year-old Ahmed Hassan of Egypt, is still playing.

Ronaldo won the 2008 FIFA World Player of the Year award. One year later, his €80 million transfer from Manchester United to Real Madrid set a world record. These days, he's correctly considered one of the top two players in the world (if not the best), along with Messi.

With more than two years left before his 30th birthday, the Portuguese superstar is already on the verge of 100 caps, and he enjoys unprecedented popularity in online social media.

So here's the question: What can't Ronaldo do?