For an insight into how footballers feel about the club vs country debate, note the number of players who have been protecting themselves from injury on the eve of World Cup 2022 (opens in new tab).
Being called up to represent your national team is widely seen as the biggest honour of all. Some players only get the chance to do it once (we're looking at you, David Nugent), while others have pulled on their country's jersey more than 100 times.
Here are the 10 most capped international players in men's football history.
10. Gianluigi Buffon, Italy (176)
Football’s answer to Benjamin Button, Buffon is still pulling on his gloves and rocking his short-sleeved shirt for Parma in 2022. He’s no longer part of the Italy setup having bowed out after their failure to qualify for the World Cup in Russia, but Buffon has won more caps for the Azzurri than anyone else.
Having made his debut in 1997 aged 19, Buffon went on to represent his country 176 times, including at eight major tournaments. His proudest moment was helping Italy win their fourth World Cup in 2006, just days before his club side Juventus (opens in new tab) were relegated to Serie B for their involvement in the Calciopoli scandal.
7= Claudio Suarez, Mexico (177)
On the short side for a centre-back, the 5ft 10in Suarez still managed to win 177 caps for Mexico – take note, Lisandro Martinez. El Emperador made his full international debut in 1992 and went on to become a stalwart of the national team over the next 14 years, before finally hanging up his boots for El Tri after the 2006 World Cup.
Suarez captained Mexico for many years and enjoyed plenty of success, notably helping his country to Gold Cup glory in 1993, 1996 and 1998. He was also a key part of the squad that won the 1999 Confederations Cup, in which Mexico shocked Brazil in the final.
7= Andres Guardado, Mexico (177)
Claudio Suarez is no longer the sole record-holder in Mexico or North America, and he will almost certainly be overtaken by Guardado at the upcoming World Cup. The veteran midfielder, who currently plies his trade for Real Betis at club level, remains an integral part of the Mexico setup at 36.
Just four months after breaking through at Atlas, Guardado was brought into the international fold by then-manager Ricardo La Volpe. Qatar will be his fifth World Cup, moving the 177-cap star level with compatriots Antonio Carbajal and Rafa Marquez, plus Lothar Matthaus and Gigi Buffon.
7= Mohamed Al-Deayea, Saudi Arabia (177)
The Middle East’s answer to Gabor Kiraly, Mohamed Al-Deayea and his jogging bottoms were a near-permanent feature of the Saudi Arabia national team between 1993 and 2006. The goalkeeper, who only ever represented two clubs in Al Ta’ee and Al-Hilal, has won more caps than any other player in his position.
Originally a handball player who was convinced by his brother to turn his hand(s) to football, Al-Deayea won the 1996 Asian Cup and was included in the Saudi squad for every World Cup between 1994 and 2006.
6. Sergio Ramos, Spain (180)
Despite his return to form and fitness at PSG (opens in new tab), Ramos is not guaranteed a place in Spain’s squad (opens in new tab) for Qatar. Luis Enrique did not take him to the European Championship last summer, but the Real Madrid (opens in new tab) legend will hope that he has done enough to make the cut this time around.
A World Cup winner in 2010 and European champion in 2008 and 2012, Ramos is eyeing one last shot at further international glory. If he is not called up for the upcoming tournament, the centre-back may choose to call time on an international career that has brought him 180 caps to date.
5. Ahmed Mubarak, Oman (183)
An Omani journeyman who has represented no fewer than 14 clubs in his homeland, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE, Ahmed Mubarak racked up 183 caps for Kuwait prior to his international retirement in 2019.
The pinnacle of the midfielder’s career with Oman came at the 2017/18 Gulf Cup, when Al-Ahmar (‘the Reds’, but it sounds better in Arabic) won the tournament on foreign soil for the first time. By the time he eventually bowed out, Ahmed Mubarak was just 17 appearances shy of the 200 mark.
4. Ahmed Hassan, Egypt (184)
A legendary figure within Egyptian football, Hassan pulled on his national team’s jersey at eight editions of the Africa Cup of Nations – and was part of the winning squad in exactly half of those tournaments.
The Pharaohs were crowned kings of the continent in 1998, 2006, 2008 and 2010, with Hassan playing a starring role in each success. No player has won more Cups of Nations than the 184-cap midfielder, whose only regret is a failure to appear at a World Cup.
3. Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal (191)
The World Cup is the only major trophy missing from Ronaldo’s enviable haul, and the Manchester United (opens in new tab) forward has one last chance (probably) to complete his collection in Qatar. He might have had a tough few months at Old Trafford, but no one would dare write off a player with Ronaldo’s track record.
Already the top scorer in the history of the international game with 117 goals, the 37-year-old no doubt has first place in the all-time appearance list in his sights too. Provided he is selected for every game, Ronaldo could break the record in either the semi-finals, the final or the third-place play-offs – more on which below.
2. Soh Chin Ann, Malaysia (195)
Soh Chin Ann might not be a household name outside of Malaysia, but only one player in the history of international football has won more international caps than him. The central defender debuted for the senior side in 1969, just 12 years after the country gained independence from Britain.
Soh played for Malaysia at the 1972 Olympics and his stout defending against South Korea at the Asian Cup eight years later helped his side earn a famous 1-1 draw against the continental powerhouses. By the time he called time on his international career in 1984, Soh had made 195 appearances for Malaysia.
1. Bader Al-Mutawa, Kuwait (196)
Still going strong as he closes in on his 38th birthday in January, Al-Mutawa is in pole position to become the first male international to reach 200 caps. He could feature when Kuwait play Lebanon in a friendly on November 20, hence the uncertainty over how many more appearances Cristiano Ronaldo would need to take top spot.
Al-Mutawa’s international career began in 2003, aged just 18. He has been virtually ever-present for Kuwait ever since, scoring 56 goals (only enough for third place in the all-time list) and helping the country win its 10th Gulf Cup in 2010.
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