More international goals than Ronaldo & Messi: Meet Christine Sinclair, Canada's record-breaking star

Cristiano Ronaldo Christine Sinclair Lionel Messi splitGetty/Goal

Cristiano Ronaldo's brace against the Republic of Ireland in 2021 made him the greatest international goalscorer in men's football, overtaking Iran's Ali Daei.

Ronaldo has scored 128 times in 205 games for his country, three of those in his nation's triumphant Euro 2016 campaign and eight coming at World Cup finals.

However, in order to become football's all-time top international goalscorer, Ronaldo needs to chase down the incredible tally of Christine Sinclair.

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Who is Christine Sinclair?

Christine Sinclair is a forward, primarily playing as an attacking midfielder, who is the captain of the Portland Thorns and also held that position with the Canada women's national team until her retirement from international football in December 2023.

The 40-year-old has played in North America her whole career, selected by FC Gold Pride as the eighth overall pick in the 2008 Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) expansion draft after starring for the Portland Pilots while attending university.

She moved to Western New York Flash in 2011 and then joined the Thorns two years later, for the inaugural National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) season, where she has remained ever since. 

Sinclair played at six World Cup finals and three Olympic Games for her country, winning two bronze medals and, in 2021, that elusive gold medal. She won the WPS Championship twice, has lifted the NWSL Championship on three occasions, claimed the NWSL Challenge Cup in 2021 and is widely regarded as Canada's greatest player of all time.

What is Christine Sinclair's international goalscoring record?

Sinclair ended her international career with a world-record 190 goals in 331 games for Canada. She set a new international goalscoring record in January 2020, scoring her 184th and 185th international goals against St Kitts and Nevis in the CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying Championship.

"Thank you to everyone for all the messages. I'm slightly overwhelmed," she posted on Twitter afterwards. "Thank you to all my teammates, coaches, staff, friends and family, 185 would not have been possible without you."

The previous record was held by Abby Wambach, the former U.S. women's national team striker who twice won Olympic gold and also won the FIFA Women's World Cup. Wambach scored 184 goals in 255 games for her country before retiring in 2015.

Christine Sinclair Canada Women 2020Getty

What other records does Christine Sinclair hold?

As well as being her country's all-time top goalscorer, Sinclair won more caps (331) for Canada than anyone else, male or female. That total puts her second on the list of the most capped players of all-time, only behind former U.S. women's national team star Kristine Lilly (354).

Sinclair went to the World Cup a record number of five times as a captain and scored at five different tournaments, a record she shares with Marta. The forward previously held the record for most goals scored in a single Olympic women's football tournament, too, netting six at London 2012, but that record was broken by Vivianne Miedema at the Games in 2021.

Sinclair is the only person to have won the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award more than once, a prestigious accolade given to Canada's female athlete of the year, and has been named Canadian Player of the Year an incredible 14 times.

When did Christine Sinclair retire?

Sinclair retired from international football in December 2023, with Australia visiting Canada for a pair of send-off friendlies for the iconic forward on December 1 and December 5.

Sinclair announced her decision on October 20, writing on Instagram: "I suppose it will be fitting to end this thing the same way it started - with some tears, playing the game we love on some field in Vancouver."

The 40-year-old also revealed that she will not be hanging up her boots just yet though, as she has committed to playing at club level with the Portland Thorns for at least one more year.

Who else has more international goals than Ronaldo and Messi?

There are currently five women's players who have more international goals than Ronaldo. Those women are the U.S. women's national team quartet of Lilly (130), Lloyd (134), Mia Hamm (158) and Wambach (184) then topped by Sinclair.

Lionel Messi, meanwhile, recently became just the third player in the history of men's football to score 100 international goals. He is now only behind Ronaldo and Daei, having become the first South American to hit a century.

*Note statistics correct as of December 5, 2023