Brazil great Pele has congratulated Cristiano Ronaldo for breaking his record for goals in "official matches" after the Portugal star scored a hat trick in Juventus' 3-1 victory over Cagliari on Sunday.
"Life is a solo flight. Each makes his own journey. And what a beautiful journey you are having! I admire you a lot, I love watching you play and this is no secret to anyone. Congratulations on breaking my record of goals in official matches," Pele, who posted a picture of himself and Ronaldo embracing, said on Instagram.
"My only regret is not being able to give you a hug today. But I leave this photo in your honor, with great affection, as the symbol of a friendship that has existed for many years."
Since football's world governing body FIFA does not keep an official record of who is on top of the all-time scoring list, it is a benchmark that is hotly contested.
Several media outlets previously hailed Ronaldo for breaking the record when he reached 760 goals as he had supposedly surpassed the record set by Austro-Czech striker Josef Bican.
However, the Czech FA subsequently said in January that Bican's total was actually 821 goals, following a review of his statistics during a career spanning from 1931 to 1955.
According to the Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation (RSSSF), an online database of historical soccer statistics that is used as a general guide by several mainstream sports media outlets, including ESPN, Pele has scored 775 goals across additional appearances for a "military team" and for a "Sao Paolo Selection" between 1959 and 1962 -- eight more than Pele himself claims.
Ronaldo celebrated the milestone after the game and explained his reasons for waiting to acknowledge it.
"The last few weeks were filled with news and stats considering me the World's Top Scorer in football history, overcoming Pele's 757 official goals. Although I'm thankful for that recognition, now it's time for me to explain why I didn't acknowledge that record until this moment," Ronaldo said in an Instagram post of his own.
"My everlasting and unconditional admiration for mister Edson Arantes do Nascimento [Pele], such as the respect that I have for mid-20th century football, led me to take into account his 767 score, assuming his 9 goals for Sao Paulo State Team, as well as his single goal for the Brazilian Military Team, as official goals. The World has changed since then and football has changed as well, but this doesn't mean that we can just erase history according to our interests.
"Today, as I reach the 770.º official goal in my professional career, my first words go straight to @pele . There's no player in the World who hasn't been raised listening to stories about his games, his goals and his achievements, and I'm no exception. And for that reason, I'm filled with joy and pride as I acknowledge the goal that put's me on top of the World's goalscoring list, overcoming Pelé's record, something that I could never have dreamed of while growing up as a child from Madeira.
"Thanks to all of those who took part of this amazing journey with me. To my teammates, to my opponents, to the fans of the beautiful game all over the World and, above all, to my family and close friends: trust me when I say that I couldn't have done it without you.
"Now I can't wait for the next games and challenges! The next records and trophees! Believe me, this story is still far from being over. The future is tomorrow and there's still a lot to win for Juventus and Portugal!
"Join me in this journey! Let's go!"
Pele, who helped Brazil to win the World Cup in 1958, 1962 and 1970, states on his own Instagram page that he heads the all-time scoring list with 1,283 goals over amateur, unofficial and friendly matches against top sides of his day.