Why Cristiano Ronaldo deserves his place as one of the greatest to ever play the game of football
10th July 2018: The day when Italian giants Juventus announced the signing of the one and only Cristiano Ronaldo. This announcement meant a lot of things to a lot of parties. For instance, to Juventus it meant they had successfully negotiated the jackpot signing of one of the greatest footballers to have ever lived. To Real Madrid it meant they had lost a legend, someone who scored more than a goal per game.
To Real Madrid fans this moved signaled that Florentino Perez values no one above the club and every player, every legend has their price and more importantly, their time to go.
Lastly to the man himself, it meant he had another challenge dawning upon him. Another country and another league for him to dominate.
But let's dial back a few years back when he was just another 'young prospect'. A fragile young teenager from the island of Madeira had joined Sporting CP - one of the most successful clubs in Portugal.
It didn't take him long to make an impression as he was a first team regular at the age of 17, when he made his first team debut against Moreirense and scored a brace in a 3-0 victory. His big break came when Manchester United was invited to play at the inauguration match of the new Estadio Jose Alvalade stadium against Sporting Lisbon.
He caught the eye of Sir Alex Ferguson when he obliterated the defence with the willingness to take on defenders and send them packing. Eventually, he signed for the English powerhouse for £12.24 million.
His life at the new club started slowly as he scored 27 goals in his first 137 appearances. All that changed from 2007-08 season, when he came back stronger from the summer break and started to show his ability and maturity well beyond his years. He went on to score 42 goals in 49 appearances and in the process, won his first Ballon d'Or award.
The star forward eventually finished his time at Manchester United with 118 goals from 292 matches. His evolution from a prospect to a genuine world beater was complete. He left for Real Madrid for then-world record fee of £80 million.
Real Madrid is where he truly set himself apart from the best players in the world to become arguably 'the best player' in the world. He went on to dominate the LaLiga, scoring 311 goals in 292 appearances, with the level of dominance and goal-scoring prowess that was unheard of.
He could score with both his legs, from inside the box, outside the box, with his supposedly weaker left foot, he could tower over center-backs to head in goals from all ranges, he could score rockets to the top corners from free kicks from any range and of course, convert penalties.
Ultimately, Ronaldo finished his Real Madrid career with 450 goals from 438 appearances at 1.03 goals per game.
To put that into perspective, Raul scored 323 goals in 741 appearances with 0.44 goals per game. The closest to come to Ronaldo's goal per game ratio in the history of Real Madrid was the legend himself, Ferenc Puskas who scored 242 goals in 262 games at 0.92 goals per game. That ratio speaks volumes of the player's desire.
While he has been the supernova that he is at the club level, he has been the torch bearer for his country as well, with 85 goals in 154 games - the highest tally among currently active players at the international level.
Upon arriving in Italy, Ronaldo has done what he does best - score goals with aplomb. He was the fastest player to reach 10 goals in the history of Juventus, achieving the tally in just 16 matches.
Yet another evolution was complete.
He will be remembered as the most complete players of the decade, if not all time. A player who can score every type of goal possible, and also to add, there are goals which are now considered 'possible' only after Ronaldo scored them.
He will be remembered as the player who conquered three major leagues and went on to win five Ballon d'Or awards. He will be remembered as the player the world wanted to hate but couldn't ignore, and most importantly, he will be remembered for inspiring a whole generation of footballers.
For all of us who has followed him in his journey, let us all hope he has few more years left in his tank.