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‘He deserves to be talked about in that breath’ - Northern Ireland’s O’Neill likens Davis to Ronaldo

5:17 PM GMT 08/09/2019
Steven Davis Northern Ireland
The Green and White Army boss has compared his skipper’s commitment to that of the Portugal captain

Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill has welcomed comparisons between Steven Davis and Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo. 

The Rangers midfielder is set to earn his 113th international cap on Monday when he leads his side out to take on Germany at Belfast’s Windsor Park. 

Should Davis play as expected, he will move up to second in Northern Ireland’s all-time appearance record - with the former Aston Villa, Fulham and Southampton man drawing level with Aaron Hughes on 112 caps in Thursday’s 1-0 win over Luxembourg. 

The Green and White Army skipper could also become his country’s highest ever appearance holder in the next year should he overtake Pat Jennings' record of 119 caps for Northern Ireland. 

“I think it’s a great achievement,” O’Neill said when asked about Davis’ achievement. “He pestered me all week to get five minutes against Luxembourg, and I eventually wilted under the pressure. 

“Last night I was watching Cristiano Ronaldo play at 34 years of age for his country and what it means to him, and that’s why international football is so special,’ said O’Neill.  

“Steven deserves to be talked about in that breath because I believe he will go on and break Pat Jennings’ record. 

“Any player who amasses over a hundred caps at international level, that has played and been available for as long as Steven for every game barring a few that he’s missed through injury, is a fantastic role model for all international footballers. 

“He is still as effective at this level as he was when I took the job seven years ago. He’s had a magnificent career at both club and international level. When he ever does hang up his boots, which hopefully will be after I’ve left this job, he will rightly be remembered as one of the greatest players we’ve ever had.” 

Davis’ remarkable Northern Ireland career began in 2005, when he made his debut in a 1-0 loss to Canada. He is also the first player to captain his country at a major tournament for 30 years, when he skippered the province at Euro 2016. 

Northern Ireland are hoping to yet again make it to the tournament in 2020, and have made a perfect start after four games in their qualification group, having gained 12 points. 

However, Michael O’Neill’s men face a daunting task to qualify for the finals next year and must pick up points in the next four fixtures: two double headers against Germany and the Netherlands