Cristiano Ronaldo leaves Real Madrid as No1 in the record books, but he'll never be No1 in Madridistas' hearts

Matt Jones 11/07/2018
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Alfredo Di Stefano, Ferenc Puskas, Raul, Iker Casillas, Fernando Hierro, Sergio Ramos, Michel – some of the greatest players to have worn the famous white of Real Madrid so well.

It’s a dazzling array of names, some of the greatest to ever play the game let alone for the club.

Cristiano Ronaldo can count himself among them. He sits above them all as Los Blancos greatest ever goalscorer. But he is perhaps unlikely to ever surpass the likes of Raul and Di Stefano in the fans’ eyes as the club’s best ever player.

The Portuguese powerhouse brought the curtain down on a quite sublime nine-year stay on the Santiago Bernabeu stage on Tuesday as he turned his attention to Turin.

Debate has long raged among Madridistas and mainstream football fans alike as to who is Madrid’s greatest player.

In terms of goals, Ronaldo stands alone, with 450 mercilessly plundered since he was plucked from the Premier League in 2009.

Raul is adored by Real Madrid fans.

Raul is adored by Real Madrid fans.

Yet, some say a lack of emotional bond between the Bernabeu faithful and their shining white knight leaves an invisible yet unbridgeable gap separating fan and phenom.

In terms of what he’s brought to the club – 15 trophies, including four Champions League titles and three in a row from 2016-18 to extend Real’s stranglehold on the European Cup with 13 in all – Ronaldo has few peers.

And, please, let’s just look at the numbers. Of the six players to score more than 200 goals for Los Blancos, Ronaldo’s record is whiter than white.

His 450 strikes in just 438 games means he scored a goal every 1.02 games. Only Hungarian heavyweight Puskas comes close with his 242 in 262 games, scored at a seismic rate of 0.92.

Di Stefano’s 307 in 396 outings (0.77), Hugo Sanchez’s 208 in 282 (0.73), Santillana’s 289 in 645 (0.44), even Bernabeu boy wonder Raul’s 323 in 741 (0.43), pale in significance.

The goals scored by the other five totals a gargantuan 1,369. Ronaldo’s tally is 33 per cent of that. A third of the goals five other stellar strikers netted combined.

He finishes with 127 more than Raul’s 323, having played 303 fewer games. And only Puskas spent less time at the club.

Ronaldo surpassed Raul nearly three years ago. He went on to ripple the net another 126 times to set a record that even a club more famous than any at establishing and passing milestones, someone will find it impossible to ever break.

The sextet are fairly even when it comes to trophies won, with Raul and Santillana lifting 16 – one more than Ronaldo and Di Stefano, while Puskas and Sanchez both won 10.

Ronaldo won three Champions League titles in a row with Real (four overall) and five Balon d'Ors.

Ronaldo won three Champions League titles in a row with Real (four overall) and five Balon d’Ors.

Ronaldo is a goal glutton and his insatiable appetite has served Real well. It is his everlasting duel with arch nemesis Lionel Messi though which both sets him apart yet also prevents Madrid fans from truly embracing him.

The duo have held a duopoly on the Ballon d’Or for the last decade – both claiming the award five times since Kaka won in 2007. In the midst of their brilliance and dominance, however, boredom has crept in. After all, is empathy in football not a crucial, the most crucial, element?

Meanwhile, Raul’s emotional attachment with the Madrid fans, coupled with the decisive goals he scored, launched him into their hearts as well as the record books.

Like Ronaldo he came from humble beginnings. He was shy and an introvert at heart – the very antithesis of Ronaldo – which led to an incredibly strong emotional link with supporters.

The fact he was Spanish and a local boy meant even more to them and his nicknames say everything about his standing at the Bernabeu. ‘Mister Raul Madrid’, ‘El Capitan’.

His emergence during the 1994/95 season was symbolic in many ways. Not only was he the youngest player to make his senior debut – aged 17 years and 124 days – but replacing Emilio Butragueno signalled a passing of the torch from one legend to someone destined to follow.

Nine goals were registered in 28 appearances to help Madrid lift the title in his first season. It broke Barcelona’s four-year monopoly on the domestic championship and paved the path to both individual and collective glory.

He scored in the Champions League finals of 2000 and 2002, becoming the first player to net in two, as Real returned to prominence both at home and on the continent.

He is seen by many as Madrid’s second favourite son, only to Di Stefano, who is held in such regard because he was the first true Madrid magician. He was by no means the last, but he was that true breakout star.

Ronaldo's insatiable desire to beat Lionel Messi was often at the expense of his relationship with Real's fans.

Ronaldo’s insatiable desire to beat Lionel Messi was often at the expense of his relationship with Real’s fans.

He laid the foundations for the behemoth of a club they have become today.

Di Stefano’s legendary contributions to Madrid’s early successes included seven European Cup final goals across five consecutive finals as Los Blancos whitewashed the inaugural years of the competition, hoisting the first five trophies from 1956-60.

Like Ronaldo he was something of an outsider, an Argentine. But after winning six caps for La Albiceleste in 1947, the Buenos Aires-born forward switched allegiance to Spain in 1956 – three years after joining Real – and would go on to rifle in 23 goals for La Roja in 31 caps, including a hat-trick on debut.

Ultimately, Ronaldo occupies the number one spot in the archives, but unfortunately not Madridistas’ hearts.

His obsession with numbers seems he is destined to be remembered as just one of many. It’s a little sad. But it’s the path Ronaldo picked for himself. His bags are packed and he will now tread one final track to Turin.

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Can Juventus' Cristiano Ronaldo become first player to win Champions League in England, Spain and Italy?

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Cristiano Ronaldo scores a stunning second goal as Real humbled Juventus in the Champions League quarter-final, first-leg last season.

Cristiano Ronaldo is a Juventus player after sealing a €112million (£99.2million) switch from Real Madrid on Tuesday.

The Portuguese forward, one of the best players of all time, has won everything there is to win at club level and will become the first man to win Champions League titles in England, Spain and Italy if he can help the Bianconeri to continental glory during his time in Turin.

Juve were last crowned European champions in 1996. Here, we compare three of their current stars to three from 22 years ago.

2018: Forward – Cristiano Ronaldo

A haul of 450 goals for Real Madrid across nine years speaks for itself. In Ronaldo Juve have signed a phenomenal striker who has it all: a range of powerful shots, fearsome heading ability, pinpoint accuracy from free-kicks, plus strength and fitness that is remarkable for a 33-year-old.

1996: Forward – Alessandro Del Piero

Del Piero shot to fame as his eight goals helped Juve win a league and cup double in 1995 and the next season he was able to fully emerge from the shadow of Roberto Baggio, from whom he inherited the iconic number 10 shirt. Like Ronaldo he was creative and technical, and could take a wicked free-kick.

Del Piero

2018: Midfielder – Sami Khedira

Juve have been blessed with excellent options in the middle in recent times, with Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Paul Pogba all strutting their stuff in black and white.

When pass-master Pirlo departed in July 2015, Khedira was a canny acquisition to replace him and, although he has missed swathes of matches due to injury, his all-round ability in defensive and forward roles has really lifted Juve.

1996: Midfielder – Antonio Conte

Best known to fans in England as the current Chelsea manager, Conte was a tenacious box-to-box midfielder who made up for a lack of true natural talent with hard work and football intelligence. Not afraid of getting forward, like Khedira he provided some key goals at key times for the Old Lady.

Sami Khedira

2018: Defender – Giorgio Chiellini

Following the departure of veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon to Paris Saint-Germain, tough-tackling centre-back Chiellini is the new Juve captain and he is the rock around which a miserly defence has been built in recent years.

Originally a left-back, Chiellini has grown better accustomed to starting plays from the back, a role which Leonardo Bonucci previously fulfilled before heading to Milan.

1996: Defender – Ciro Ferrara

Skipper throughout Juve’s dominant period in the mid-1990s, Naples-born Ferrara was a truly world-class defender – athletic and strong, a superb marker and tackler – as well as providing calm and cultured leadership and the occasional goal.

Ryan Giggs called him one of the toughest defenders he ever played against, describing the uncompromising treatment he received as “old school”.

Giorgio Chiellini

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Cristiano Ronaldo's eye-watering career numbers as he leaves Real Madrid for Juventus

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Cristiano Ronaldo has agreed a move to Juventus to end his astounding spell at Real Madrid.

Here, we take a statistical look back at the Portugal star’s nine seasons at the Bernabeu.

450 – Ronaldo’s Real Madrid-record goal tally, in 438 games.

17 – his record goal tally for a Champions League season, in 2013/14.

105 – total Champions League goals for the club, which also included 16 in 2015/16 and 15 in the most recent campaign.

4 – Champions League titles with Real, including the last three in succession.

311 – goals in La Liga.

2 – La Liga titles, in 2011/12 and 2016/17.

16 – major trophies with the club, also including two domestic cups, two domestic and three European Super Cups and three Club World Cups.

4 – Ballon d’Or awards won with Real, making five in total after he was first recognised as the world’s best player in 2008 when he was with Manchester United.

ZidaneRonaldo

44 – hat-tricks for Madrid including a club-record 34 in La Liga. Two came last season, against Girona and Real Sociedad in the league.

8 – the Girona game marked the eighth time he had scored four or more goals in a Real match. That included five-goal league hauls against Granada in 2014/15 and Espanyol the following season.

8 – his first three goals in that 9-1 win over Granada came in eight minutes, equalling the club record for the quickest ever hat-trick.

61 – his most prolific season for Real came in 2014/15 with 61 goals in all competitions, including 48 in the league. It was the second time he hit 60 for a season.

£80m – fee paid by Real to sign Ronaldo from United in 2009. At the time it was a world record.

£92.7m – the reported fee paid by Juve sees Real make a profit in raw terms.

658 – career goals for Real, United (118), Sporting Lisbon (five) and Portugal (85).

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