Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick in Real Madrid's 4-2 win over Bayern Munich at the Bernabeu Reuters

Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville has backed Cristiano Ronaldo to play into his 40s after the 32-year-old powered Real Madrid to the semi-finals of the Champions League.

Ronaldo scored a hat-trick to help Real beat German champions Bayern Munich 4-2 at the Santiago Bernabeu on 18 April, with the third goal being the 100th Champions League goal of his career.

The Portugal captain is already Madrid's leading goalscorer and is also the all-time leading goalscorer in the Champions League with six goals more than Barcelona forward Lionel Messi.

Neville said Ronaldo had all the necessary attributes to transition from a wide forward to a centre-forward and continue performing at the top level for many years to come.

"I think he'll go on for a long, long time. And in this game, he's becoming a goal-scorer, he's getting in the box more, he's coming across the near post, his heading is incredible anyway," the former United captain told Sky Sports.

"I think we've seen the transformation of a player. We've seen Ryan Giggs go from a flying winger to someone who played more centrally as a midfielder. We're seeing Cristiano now as a centre-forward.

"He knows he can't go up and down all the time now. He knows he can't go past players all the time. He'll become a goalscorer, a poacher and a good one."

Neville said he could see Ronaldo playing for longer than Messi and scoring more goals than his Argentine rival.

"He'll be thinking Pele. Those numbers. Those scandalous numbers you think you can never achieve, the appearances, the goals, and that to me is where it's going," he added.

"Since he's gone to Real Madrid he's contributed enormously to everything they've done but he's living more off moments rather than a contribution through a whole 90 minutes."

Ronaldo is Real's top scorer in La Liga this season with 19 goals.