Cristiano Ronaldo has been the main man for the Portuguese national team for a decade and a half now. He is set to play a couple of his most decisive fixtures for the team in the coming days as Portugal look to book a berth at the 2022 FIFA World Cup via the playoffs.
Cristiano Ronaldo has been a standout performer for Portugal throughout his career
Ronaldo is the highest goalscorer in international men's football with 115 goals to his name from 184 appearances. It shows just how important the 37-year-old has been to his national team. His influence in the national team cannot be understated.
Ronaldo won the Golden Boot at last year's European championship, scoring five goals and providing an assist in four appearances at the continental competition.
But Portugal will have to face the fact that Ronaldo is nearing the end of his career and they need to find a replacement for him.
Without further ado, let's take a look at five players who could replace Cristiano Ronaldo in the Portuguese national team.
#5 Goncalo Guedes (Valencia)
Goncalo Guedes is having quite an impressive season for Valencia this time around. Guedes made his international debut for Portugal as an 18-year-old against Russia in Krasnodar in 2015. He famously scored the only goal of the 2019 UEFA Nations League final for Portugal against the Netherlands after coming off the bench.
Guedes is a versatile forward who can play anywhere across the frontline. But he excels as a centre-forward or a second striker. The 25-year-old has scored 13 goals and provided five assists in 33 appearances across all competitions for Valencia so far this season.
He is currently not a regular feature in Portugal's starting lineup but that could change following Cristiano Ronaldo's retirement.
#4 Rafael Leao (AC Milan)
AC Milan winger Rafael Leao is starting to garner plenty of interest from all across Europe. The 22-year-old has been one of the stars of the season so far for the Rossoneri. Leao's ability with the ball at his feet is reminiscent of a young Cristiano Ronaldo.
His dancing feet and blistering pace enables him to slalom past defenders with ease and he has been wreaking havoc down the left flank for Stefano Pioli's men this season. Leao has scored 11 goals and provided six assists in 33 appearances across all competitions for AC Milan so far this term.
He is tipped to become a future star for AC Milan and Portugal. Leao only recently made his debut for the Portuguese senior side, coming on as a substitute for Cristiano Ronaldo in their 3-0 win over Qatar on October 9. He provided the assist for Andre Silva's goal on his debut.
#3 Andre Silva (RB Leipzig)
Andre Silva was one of the best strikers in Europe during the 2020-21 season, which he spent with Eintracht Frankfurt. The Portuguese international scored 29 goals and provided 10 assists in 34 appearances across all competitions for the Bundesliga outfit last term.
He joined RB Leipzig last summer and has been a reliable presence upfront for them as well. Silva is an out-and-out centre-forward with great striking ability. He also showcases great awareness inside the box and is good at finding space and getting his shot away.
Silva also has a good first touch and his link-up play inside the final third is quite commendable. The 26-year-old has scored 15 goals and provided eight assists in 39 appearances across all competitions so far this season.
Back in 2017 in an interview with MARCA (via SportBible), Ronaldo himself named Andre Silva as his heir in the Portuguese national team.
#2 Diogo Jota (Liverpool)
Diogo Jota has blossomed into one of the finest forwards in the Premier League at Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp. He is presently the second highest goalscorer in the ongoing Premier League campaign with 13 goals to his name.
Jota is a livewire in attack and can play anywhere across the frontline. He is pretty good at dropping deep to collect the ball before foraying into the final third with it. Jota also excels at making runs in behind the opposition defence. Once he is in the clear, you can bank on him to keep his head and put the ball in the back of the net.
Despite being just 178 cms tall, Jota can score some thumping headers. Thanks to his versatility and eye for goal, he could be a great long-term replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo in the Portuguese national team.
In 39 appearances across all competitions for Liverpool so far this term, Jota has scored 19 goals and provided three assists.
#1 Joao Felix (Atletico Madrid)
Joao Felix is the player who most resembles a young Cristiano Ronaldo. The 22-year-old has immense potential and the consensus is that his career has stagnated slightly at Atletico Madrid. Felix is certain to do much better in a team that's more attack-oriented.
He was signed by the Rojiblancos in 2019 for a club record €127.2 million. Felix has scored 27 goals and provided 15 assists in 106 appearances across all competitions for Atletico Madrid since joining them.
He is an extremely agile forward who can twist and turn his way out of cul-de-sacs and is also pretty versatile. Felix can play in any position across the frontline and could prove to be a great replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo if he is afforded enough time and patience.