So… previously, on the third best sports blog in the world: we surveyed the all-time international caps record, its history, and two potential candidates to break it – Iker Casillas and Landon Donovan. This time we’ll have a look at some younger candidates, all of whom are very famous footballers, and who all accumulated a whole load of international appearances at a very young age. Let the fun begin!
First, we have the German super duo – Bastian Schweinsteiger and Lukas Podolski, or Schweini and Poldi, as they are known. Bastian is the older one – having celebrated his 30th b-day in August. He started to play for the Mannschaft at the age of 19, and has been a lock
for its starting 11 ever since, accumulating 108 caps so far. Excellent! However, the record of his BFF Lukas is even more staggering: Poldi is one year younger than Schweini, and he also made his debut for the national team at age 19. They both managed to take part in Germany’s catastrophic Euro 2004, which seems to belong to another era. Nevertheless, despite not being a similar lock for the starting eleven, Poldi amassed an unbelievable total of 120 caps, and he’s still only 29!! Damn! They are both a good bet to reach 150 caps (Matthaus’s all-time German record), but despite Poldi’s better record at this point in time, I am somewhat more wary of his chances. Poldi is not a regular member of the starting line-up the same way Schweini is, despite almost always performing better for the national team than for his domestic club (a trait he shares with his brother from another mother – Miroslav Klose, a legend at the international stage, and proud owner of 137 caps himself). Hopefully neither of them will do a “Phillip Lahm” on the Mannschaft and retire from international competition all of a sudden. If I would have written this post several months ago Lahm would have been featured here too, having accumulated 113 caps at 30 years, and being a lock not only for Germany’s 11 but also for any 11 in the world… The best full-back since Maldini. But sadly, he retired from international competition, and so we move on.
Germany’s nemesis – England, has another contender. Incidentally, he also took part in Euro 2004, but he was way more successful than either Schweini or Poldi, despite being younger than both. His name is… Emile Heskey.
Oh, wait a minute, this isn’t the post about the “All-Time Greatest Football Players”.
I meant – his name is… Wayne Rooney. Ever since Rooney made his debut for the Three Lions at age 17, I was thinking that if everything goes according to plan and nothing unexpected happens – he just might be the one who breaks both Peter Shilton’s and Bobby Charlton’s records of caps and goals for England. And sure enough, many years later, Rooney is on pace to break both of them. But the goals are subject for another post. This one is about the caps. And Rooney already has plenty of those. 101, to be precise. And he only celebrated his 29th birthday a month ago. I’m willing to bet my PhD on him breaking Shilton’s record – 125. Rooney, being the greatest England player of the last decade, is a lock for England’s line-up for the next 3-4 years, and who knows what’ll happen after that. But I’m definitely seeing 130+ appearances in his future, and probably 140 too.
And what about Rooney’s former teammate – Cristiano, or as some people would say – The Fake Ronaldo? I used to call him that myself, when I was young and foolish (like six month ago. JK. Or am I?…). Cristiano has been nothing short of god-like this season, but this is not the place to talk about his accomplishments other than his international caps. And Ronaldo, nearing his 30th b-day (What in the name of all fucks?! No way!!! How can he be 30 already?!), already accumulated 118 international appearances. Judging by the fact that Cristiano is a player of historic caliber, it seems safe to assume that he will play for the national team for as long as he likes. And I think it is also safe to assume he has some 6 international years left in him. Which means that he could possibly have a go at the all-time record. As for Luis Figo’s national record of 127 caps – Cristiano will probably break it in 2015 already. All in all, I’m seeing 160+ appearances in Cristiano’s future, and quite possibly even 170…
But what about Cristiano’s nemesis – Lionel Messi? Well, Messi is the youngest player on this list, but he also shows great potential. Messi made his debut for Argentina aged 18, and since then, the (arguably) greatest player of our generation has accumulated 96 appearances in total. And a reminder – the dude is only 27 years old. He will reach 100 caps and enter the prestigious FIFA Century Club list before his 28th b-day. And the sky is the limit for him. Like Cristiano, Messi is probably the only one who will decide for how long he’s going to play for the Argentinean national team. Assuming that he won’t quit before he turns 34 (and he won’t), he still has like 7 years ahead of him… That’s a lot of appearances. I think that Messi will play for the national team for a long time, especially since he has people comparing him to Maradona all the time. He will make himself available for the national team for many years to come. I think it’s a safe bet for him to reach 150 caps. But he might reach more… Who knows, he’s still pretty young.
And from Messi and Ronaldo we turn to their friends at their local clubs – Real Madrid and Barcelona. Spain had many players who reached 100+ caps in recent years, and we already discussed the great Iker Casillas. Now, some of their potential record-breakers retired from the national team recently, like Xabi and Xavi. But we’ll focus on those who are still playing.
First, there is Fernando Torres. How this guy managed to have 110 caps, let alone by age 30, is beyond my comprehension. Sure, he had several very good seasons. But 110 caps?!?! How is that even possible?! For the past 4+ years he played like the football equivalent of Eddy Curry and he still managed to get called up around 30 timed to the national team! What is this guy’s secret?! Does he know something about Del Bosque that we don’t? Is he blackmailing him? I can’t think of any other reason for him to play that amount of games. Anyway, like I said (or written. Yes, definitely written. Change that. Change that, Michael!!!) Torres is only 30 and he already has 110 caps. But, with the way he is playing (unfortunately for one of my favorite clubs – AC Milan. And before that he played for my other favorite club – Chelsea! Oh the humanity! Thank the flying spaghetti monster he’s not Italian…), I really can’t imagine him gaining many caps in the future. I think 130 will be his limit, and I would probably put some money on the table if someone offered me good odds on 122. BTW, Torres gets many Coolness Points from me for admiring Tolkien, and having a tattoo on his arm written in one of Tolkien’s invented langueges – Tengwar. My Geek Club will always welcome you, Fernando!
Our second candidate from Spain is Andres Iniesta. Now, that is a PLAYER, with a capital P! Iniesta was somewhat of a late bloomer, and he made his international debut at only 22 years of age, definitely not an age that favors setting records. But he was such a phenomenal
player that since then he was almost always a lock for the starting 11, and now, at 30 years of age, he already has 101 caps. True, by recent standards this is not a huge number, and
Iniesta is a player whom I can see retiring from the national team in two or three years from now. But still… If Iniesta continues to play like he knows, and doesn’t retire from international play, I can see him being part of the Spain squad for the next 5 years, which means that he too can crack 150 caps, if he’s lucky. Although for him I would probably set the bar at 140.
But here comes the player that I have the highest hopes for: Sergio Ramos, one of the greatest defenders of our era (probably joint 1st place with Phillip Lahm). An already legendary player, and still only 28 years old, I thought he deserved the “Best Player” award when Spain won Euro 2008. Anyway, Ramos made his debut a few days before his 19th birthday, and was a lock for the starting line-up pretty much ever since. Now, at 28 years of age, he already has an astounding number of 123 caps (!!!).
I mean – WHAT?!
That’s right! 123 caps at 28 years! And Ramos is not showing signs of slowing down. In fact, of all this young group I surveyed, he is my favorite to break the all-time record one day. I think he is a lock for 150 and 160 caps. 160 caps is a matter of 3 more years, maybe 3 years and a couple of months. But he will still be only 31 years old, a really good age for a defender. I reckon he just might be the first player to crack the mythical 200 caps barrier. There’s obviously still a very long way to go before that, and we don’t know what might happen – but if I had to single out a player who has a real chance to do it – Sergio, I choose you! Make it happen!
Sergio used “Awesome Defending”. Opponent is thwarted!
Now, I should probably mention Cesc Fabregas, who earned 94 caps and he is only 27 years old, but I don’t feel like it. I don’t really like this player, despite him playing for Chelsea.
So that’s it. We’ve seen what goes on in the international appearances department. One day we’ll cover the international goals thingy as well.