The Portuguese scored against Levante on Saturday to surpass Raul and become the club’s all-time top scorer, but is he the finest footballer to grace the famous white shirt?
Cristiano Ronaldo is now officially the greatest goalscorer in the history of Real Madrid. The Portuguese forward scored after just half an hour against Levante on Saturday to surpass Raul’s record of 323 goals for los Blancos. But is he the greatest player to ever represent the club?
Over at Barcelona, there is no such debate about Lionel Messi. When Madrid coach Rafa Benitez surprisingly said recently that Ronaldo was not necessarily the best he had coached, eyebrows were raised. Asked the same question about Messi the following day, Barca boss Luis Enrique had no doubt. “I don’t like to compare them,” he said. “But Messi is the best in the world and the best in history. That’s my opinion.”
It is the opinion of many. Yet while the Argentine attacker is often described as the best player to ever grace the game, few have dubbed Ronaldo the finest footballer in history. One notable exception is Jorge Mendes, but he is Cristiano’s agent and personal friend, bigging up his prized asset whenever he has the chance.
Meanwhile, a Google search for “Ronaldo best in history” brings up a 33-minute compilation video of goals and memorable moves at the top of the results page. Featured, however, is not Cristiano but another Ronaldo – the former Barca, Madrid and Brazil striker who retired in 2011.
Messi became Barca’s all-time top scorer back in March 2012 when he surpassed Cesar Rodriguez (253 goals for the Blaugrana between 1939 and 1954). The Argentine attacker now has 418 for the Catalan club in a total of 493 appearances.
Crucially, however, he has won 25 trophies for the Camp Nou club – including seven Liga titles and four Champions Leagues. And just when it appeared he may be losing some of his magic as injuries interrupted him in 2013-14, he returned to lead Barca to an unprecedented second treble the following season.
Ronaldo, however, has won only one Liga title and one Champions League crown in his six seasons so far at the Santiago Bernabeu. In total, the Portuguese has claimed seven titles in that time, but while Messi has led the Catalan club during the most successful spell in their entire history, this is anything but a golden era for Real Madrid.
Cristiano was key as los Blancos claimed la Decima in 2013-14, scoring 17 times to set a new Champions League goals record and ending the calendar year with four trophies as Real also added the Uefa Super Cup and the Fifa Club World Cup to the Copa del Rey they had won prior to their European triumph.
However, Ronaldo’s return pales in comparison alongside the trophies claimed by players like Alfredo Di Stefano and Paco Gento in the 1950s and 1960s – an era when Madrid dominated football by winning the first five European Cups.
Di Stefano was considered the greatest player in that era and won 18 trophies in total, including those five European Cups, eight Liga titles, a Copa del Rey and an Intercontinental Cup in a time when there were no Spanish Supercopas to bump up a silverware collection.
Di Stefano died last year at the age of 88 and Madrid paid tribue to their former player, coach and honorary president in a piece on their website entitled ‘Alfredo Di Stefano – the best player of all time’.
“Di Stefano passed away today at 88 years of age in Madrid,” it said. “The Blond Arrow was born on 4 July 1926 in Buenos Aires (Argentina) and is considered one of the best footballers of all time.
“Di Stefano is the only player in history to have won the Super Ballon d’Or. He played 11 seasons with Real Madrid and was a key factor in the club’s world domination.”
Madrid cannot claim “world domination” in their current era, even after last year’s World Club Cup and Champions League crowns – particularly as Barca (and Messi) have won 17 trophies to Real’s seven since Ronaldo moved to the Bernabeu in a €94 million (£80m) move in the summer of 2009.
And even Raul, the club’s all-time top scorer before Saturday, won 16 trophies for Real including three Champions Leagues and six Primera Division titles.
The Spanish striker scored 323 goals in 741 appearances for los Blancos, while Di Stefano netted 308 in 396 games according to the club’s website. Now Ronaldo has overtaken them both – and he has done it in a much more impressive ratio as well with his 324 strikes arriving in only 310 matches.
So he is undoubtedly the greatest goalscorer in Madrid’s history – there is little question about that. But is he, like Messi at Barcelona, the finest footballer to ever represent the club?
Not yet. For all his brilliance and his superb strike rate over the last six years, the Portuguese needs a few more top trophies in a period of domination domestically and in Europe if he to displace Di Stefano (and arguably others, too) and be considered the club’s greatest ever player. And at the age of almost 31, time is running out.