There are only a select few things that Cristiano Ronaldo has failed to achieve in his illustrious career. The iconic Portuguese went from being a wiry, fleet-footed teenager to the best player in the world, and now, arguably one of the best players in the history of the beautiful game.
Ronaldo has displayed a unique ability to feed on criticism and fuel his performances with it. Even at the age of 35, after a lacklustre start to the league season with five goals in ten games, he made his critics think again with a blitz of goals and stunning performances over the next 23 league games he played in.
The 35-year-old scored a whopping 26 goals in those 23 games, firing Juventus to their ninth consecutive title.
This is a cycle that the Portuguese's faithful are very aware of. Ronaldo always strikes back and does so in emphatic fashion whenever he's begun a campaign slowly.
With UEFA Champions Leagues, Ballons d'Or, and a staggering number of goals, Ronaldo very well makes an undeniable case for being one of the greatest ever. Here, we take a look at five of the Portuguese legend's most significant achievements in what has been a magnificent career.
#5 Highest scorer in UCL history
Out of the catalogue of records that Ronaldo has shattered, this is, perhaps, the most impressive one. While many greats of the game have broken records for their clubs and domestic leagues, Ronaldo took it a few steps forward by doing so on the biggest stage that club football has to offer.
The 35-year-old is the leading goalscorer in the history of the UEFA Champions League, and became the first of only two players to surpass 100 UCL goals. The second was his eternal rival Lionel Messi, who has 114 to his name. Ronaldo has a total of 129 goals in Europe, 128 of which came in the premier competition itself and the other in the qualifying rounds.
The former Manchester United forward also holds the distinction of being the player with the most number of goals in a single UCL campaign when he scored 17 in 2014. Unsurprisngly, the next two highest individual tallies in a season also belong to the Portugal legend.
The Champions League really is Cristiano's favourite competition.
#4 Only player to score 15+ goals every year since 2006 in Europe's top-five leagues
The level of competition in the top five leagues of Europe — Premier League, LaLiga Santander, Serie A, Bundesliga, and Ligue 1 — is remarkably higher than that in the remaining top-flights. Ronaldo has appeared in three of these five leagues and has scored a staggering number of goals in each and every one of them.
The former Real Madrid legend has a total of 429 league goals since 2006/07, scoring a minimum of 15 goals in every campaign since then — a feat that no other player has managed in the top five leagues.
The Portuguese has been the epitome of consistency and has managed to score goals at an absurd rate. This achievement only goes on to highlight his goalscoring prowess and natural ability that has allowed him to find the back of the net at will, and for such an extended period.
The most fascinating part of this is the variation of goals he's scored. Ronaldo has a lengthy list of goals ranging from three-yeards out to thirty. Be it a banging long-range strike or a clever finish in the box, Ronaldo has done it all.
#3 Winning second-most Ballons d'Or in history
Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are regarded as the poster boys of a generation of football. Naturally, their rivalry has been one of the themes of the sport for well over a decade now, a rivalry considered one of the greatest in sport, let alone football.
Their battle for more Ballons d'Or has been well-documented and is enthralling, to say the least. While Ronaldo opened the metaphorical scoring between the two greats, Messi took control of the podium and was crowned as the best in the world for four successive seasons between 2009 and 2012. While Ronaldo recovered miraculously and saw their tally level with five apiece, their duopoly was broken by Luka Modric in the year that Croatia reached the FIFA World Cup final.
Lionel Messi made history after winning his sixth in 2019, leaving Ronaldo in second place as the player with the second-most number of Ballons d'Or. The Portuguese icon would hope to win another before he retires.
Nonetheless, five in itself is a breathtaking achievement, given that it is at least two more than anyone else in history not named Lionel Messi.
#2 Winning league titles and UCLs with multiple clubs
Winning a UEFA Champions League title and a league title is an honour for some players, while for those like Cristiano Ronaldo, it has come to become the norm, the expectation. The Juventus striker fired his side to their ninth successive Scudetto, his second in as many years in Turin.
This made him the only player to win a minimum of two league titles in each of the Serie A, LaLiga Santander and Premier League. Ronaldo's Juventus teammate Danilo also achieved a similar record with the recent title win. However, he has only one apiece of Serie A and LaLiga titles, while Ronaldo has a minimum of two. Ronaldo won three Premier League titles on the spin under Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, and two at Real Madrid.
He also won the UCL with two clubs — the Red Devils and Los Blancos — and is hopeful of winning it with a third separate club at Juventus. Should he do so, he will be only the second player after Clarence Seedorf to win it with three clubs. The Portuguese won four of them with Real Madrid, with three of them being a part of Zinedine Zidane's historic 'three-peat' between 2015 and 2018.
Before his move to the Spanish capital, the former Sporting CP teenager fired Manchester United to European glory in 2008 and even scored in the final against Chelsea. Ronaldo is also the only player to score in two finals and win them.
#1 International glory with Portugal
Perhaps the only notable form of criticism faced by both Ronaldo and his counterpart Messi is their lack of international glory with Portugal and Argentina respectively. The latter came painfully close to sealing his status as the undisputed greatest player of all time with a FIFA World Cup final appearance in 2014, but ended up on the losing side as Germany were crowned champions of the world.
Two years later, Ronaldo helped Portugal achieve something that they never had in their history despite possessing a glorious list of footballers among their ranks. He helped the Selecao to their first-ever international trophy as Fernando Santos' men won the UEFA European Championship in 2016 after beating France in their backyard. The striker ended the tournament as the joint-second highest scorer with three goals, behind Player of the Tournament Antoine Griezmann.
Three years after their legendary Euro 2016 win, Ronaldo, who sat out the preliminary fixtures in Portugal's League of Nations campaign, entered the fray in the semi-final. He announced his arrival with a breathtaking hat-trick in the penultimate game against Switzerland, including two late goals to seal their spot in the final. Santos' men eventually prevailed victorious in the final, making it the second international trophy Portugal won in the CR7 era.
Regardless of his endless list of achievements in club football, Ronaldo will also be remembered as the player who finally helped end Portugal's wait for a taste of international glory.