Cristiano Ronaldo or Eusebio?

The debate as to who of Cristiano Ronaldo or Eusebio is the best Portuguese player of all time continues to rage.

The debate was prompted by Ronaldo overtaking his compatriot to become Portugal’s second highest goalscorer of all time, Benfica legend Eusebio says a simple goals comparison is unfair because he  played fewer matches than Ronaldo.

“I am saddened because we can’t make that comparison. It’s a mistake because I played (around) 60 matches to score that amount (41 goals),” Eusebio told Portuguese national television.

Ronaldo reached 43 goals in 106 internationals after his hat-trick earned Portugal a 4-2 comeback win over Northern Ireland in last month’s World Cup qualifier.

“This is historic. I’d scored a lot of hat-tricks for Real Madrid but never any for Portugal,” he said after the game.

“Going above Eusebio in the scorers’ list was a natural thing to happen and it was only a matter of time but still I am really proud.”

Ronaldo, 28, is set to rewrite Portugal’s football statistics as he is only four goals behind all time leading scorer Pauleta, a figure he looks sure to eclipse sooner rather than later.

Eusebio, 71, believes Ronaldo has it easier than him.

“Now, after all these years, someone else scores (that many goals) but obviously that happens because today it is easier to play some of these teams. I never got to play against Liechtenstein or Azerbaijan,” he said.

Portugal have also qualified for major tournaments more often with Ronaldo – five since his debut at Euro 2004.

Eusebio played at only one major tournament — the 1966 World Cup in England where he was the overall top scorer as Portugal grabbed a best-ever third place.

Portugal and Real Madrid’s Pepe prefers his teammate.

“I hope Eusebio forgives me but, for me, the best player ever is Ronaldo. Despite his relatively young age, what he has already achieved for the ‘Seleccao’ leaves no doubts,” he told o Jogo.

“Because of the goals he has scored and the clubs he has represented Ronaldo will leave a mighty footprint.”

Eusebio spent most of his career at Benfica, winning the 1962 European Cup and 11 league titles.

Eusebio’s supporters say he excelled at a time when football science was limited.

“Eusebio had no preparation, no gyms, no academies. He became what he did through sheer talent,” said Hilario Conceicao, a former international colleague.

Another team-mate, Jose Augusto, told o Jogo: “Footballs are all high-tech and vulcanised today, much faster, lighter and with unpredictable trajectories. With today’s balls Eusebio would have scored double the goals.”

Despite their differences the two players have a lot in common – powerful shooting, and pace, the ability to use both feet, and an eye for goal.

“Technically the two are not actually that distant. Both are incredible hard-workers who loved to practice and improved from a very young age,” said Jose Pereira, the head of Portugal’s coach association.

“Ronaldo and Eusebio thrived thanks to a tremendous sense of opportunity up front and explosive runs. Both are football giants.”