Ronaldo closes in on Raul’s Real scorer record, but what then at the Bernabeu?
Two trademark penalties and an opportunistic headed goal from Cristiano Ronaldo helped Real Madrid ease to a 4-0 Champions League Group A victory against Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk, and that hat-trick now puts the Portuguese marksman within touching distance of a historical haul.
Ronaldo needs but a brace to equal, or another glut of three goals to beat, Raul Gonzalez’s Real all-time top scorer record. The lethal local legend finished on 323 in 741 outings across all competitions, his path briefly crossing with his potential successor in 2009, before departing the Bernabeu for Bundesliga boys Schalke.
Yet two-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo’s feat stands to be even more impressive, as the superstar lags behind on 321 strikes in just 304 games for Los Blancos. Once he inevitably breaks that record, aged 30, it is difficult to see anyone, from the current generation at least, even coming close.
Having moved from Manchester United in 2009, the Madeira-born menace has taken all the pressure in his stride, smashing long-standing records at every turn. Ronaldo has already surpassed Raul’s La Liga tally, with a terrific 230 in 203, while he has also scored the most for Madrid (7/4 with Coral to lift La Liga) in a single Champions League season.
These personal titles are not to be sniffed at, nor his competition with rival Lionel Messi to be most prolific in Europe trifled, but this is the big one.
After a slow start to the Liga season, Ronaldo responded by romping to an excellent eight in his past two games. Should he gallop to more goals next time out against Spanish minnows Granada, as is expected, and fittingly overtake Raul in front of the Bernabeu faithful, what then for the global icon?
There has always been a sense that the Portugal skipper, so heavily relied upon by Real, is somewhat taken for granted in the Spanish capital. When purchased, his then-world record fee of around £80m surely did not help and, with his reputation, goals and trophies seemed to be expected and demanded, rather than simply appreciated.
As Ronaldo heads into his early 30’s, however, and inches ever closer to becoming arguably Los Blancos’ all-time best, his rare talents are rightly being recognised and lauded. He makes it all look so easy, but Madrid must realise this won’t last forever.
“Cristiano Ronaldo has a contract and we want him to stay in the future, but in this life you can’t be sure of anything,” Real president Florentino Perez recently stated rather tellingly.
The determined dangerman had won everything there was to win in his previous Premier League life at Old Trafford, and his hunger to etch his name even further into history resulted in Ronaldo bidding goodbye to the club he had come to call home, just as he had done previously with Sporting Lisbon.
Not one to settle for fading out, ruthless Ronaldo has a physique and nose for goal that should see him play on for years to come but, as Real (5/1 to win the Champions League) are renowned for rather abruptly dispatching and dismissing their heroes (see Iker Casillas this summer), the Portuguese may head for the door before it is eventually opened.
A single-minded and ambitious player, it is Ronaldo’s will to win and be the best that has taken him this far, so it is not unthinkable that the Iberian attacker will seek challenges elsewhere to devour.
Once crowned Real’s all-time top scorer, having also helped them to Holy Grail La Decima, there is still Barcelona’s Messi to stay ahead of in the Champions League, but the Portuguese can jostle his Argentine competitor from elsewhere.
A return to the red half of Manchester seems unlikely, but PSG and Manchester City, or even a stint in Italy, where superstars are hard to come by, could offer Ronaldo the chance to further cement his legacy across the continent.