Real Madrid’s all-time goalscorer Ronaldo takes it all in his stride

Published 10/17/2015, 1:56 PM EDT
Real Madrid’s striker Cristiano Ronaldo reacts during their Spanish First Division soccer match against Levante at Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, October 17, 2015. REUTERS/Juan Medina


By Tim Hanlon

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BARCELONA (Reuters) – As well as combining sublime skill with extraordinary athletic prowess, it is Cristiano Ronaldo’s strength of character that sets Real Madrid’s new all-time top scorer apart.

The weight of expectancy at Real is considerable and when the Portugal captain arrived in 2009 as World Player of the Year for a then world record transfer fee of 94 million euros ($106.6 million) there was huge pressure to deliver.

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Many players struggle with adapting between the more physical Premier League and La Liga, which puts greater emphasis on technique and tactics, but Ronaldo had the self-belief and determination to take it in his stride.

He quickly went from the adoration of Manchester United fans at Old Trafford to adulation at the Bernabeu where he established himself as the undisputed talisman of the side.

Ronaldo’s first year coincided with the final season of club hero Raul, who he has surpassed as Real’s all-time top scorer having played fewer than half the number of games.

Ronaldo has 324 goals in 310 games, one more than Raul who needed 741 matches.

The two are different types of players, with Ronaldo preferring the wing where he has more space rather than Raul’s old out-and-out striker role, although the Portuguese has played the more central position intermittently and particularly this season under coach Rafa Benitez.

“They are both equally competitive and in that I refer to ambition, looking to improve and an obsession with work,” Jorge Valdano, who coached Raul at Real and was also sports director when Ronaldo joined the club, told El Pais last week.

“The differences are more in terms of character and football style,” added the former Real and Argentina player.

“Cristiano is more a leader on the pitch. If leadership is to influence a game then nobody creates a bigger impact among the players. On top of this, he intimidates his rivals.”

ASTOUNDING EFFICIENCY

Ronaldo imposes his personality on a match more than Raul, who announced he would be retiring as a player on Thursday, and possibly to a greater extent than any Real player.

This is evident through his gestures, how he demands the ball and wants to be the star of the show.

He has backed that up with his ability to almost single-handedly steamroller opponents with an astounding efficiency in front of goal.

Among his many records, he has hit over 50 goals in five consecutive seasons and he is the all-time Champions League top scorer with 82 goals.

In comparison with other Real greats, Ronaldo has arguably had a greater influence on the team than even Alfredo Di Stefano, who shared the dressing room with other iconic figures such as Ferenc Puskas and Paco Gento.

Ronaldo’s feats at Real will always be measured against the exploits of Lionel Messi for arch rivals Barcelona.

They are clearly two very different characters, with Messi considerably more insular, but what does stand in Ronaldo’s favour is that his success has come in two different leagues.

Picked up by United in 2003 on the advice of players who faced him in a friendly match against Sporting Lisbon, he developed into a devastating player under the guidance of manager Alex Ferguson.

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His dribbling skills fitted in perfectly with United’s fine history of wingers and he was soon compared with the best. Indeed, he became the first Manchester United player since George Best to become European Player of the Year in 2008.

His strong physique was an advantage as he mesmerised defences on his way to winning three Premier League titles and the Champions League before Real came calling.

He has remarkably won only one La Liga title, in 2012, but Real’s triumph in the 2014 Champions League was another feather in his cap and more trophies, awards, acclaim and records are sure to follow for arguably the best footballer ever.

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($1 = 0.8814 euros)

(Editing by Mark Meadows)

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Dhruv George

12162 articles

Dhruv George is a senior Formula One and NASCAR analyst for EssentiallySports, having authored nearly 12000 articles spanning different sports like F1, NASCAR, Tennis, NFL, and eSports. He graduated with a PG Diploma in Journalism from the Xavier Institute of Communications. Dhruv has also conducted interviews with F1 driver Pierre Gasly and Moto2 rider Tony Arbolino.

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