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In appreciation of Cristiano Ronaldo — the only player who was ever bigger than Real Madrid

The Portuguese superstar departs as Los Blancos' all-time leading goalscorer

Good luck to Real Madrid’s next No7 — you’ve got some prolific boots to fill.

Raul occupied the number from 1995 until 2010, when he left the capital as the Los Blancos’ all-time leading goalscorer.

And now Cristiano Ronaldo has vacated the number having scored 127 goals more than the legendary Spanish forward managed for the club.

Nothing is impossible in football.

But the idea of bettering Ronaldo’s Real Madrid career is as close as you’ll get.

He came, he saw, he conquered

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He came, he saw, he conquered

Stats don’t do justice to many players.

But for Ronaldo, numbers are everything.

The most insatiable goalscorer in history leaves the world’s biggest club after nine years having scored more goals than games played.

450 goals from 438 games to be precise.

Take 200 goals off that tally and you’d still have a record most world-class forwards would be delighted to have next to their name.

A legacy built on sheer volume

Reuters
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A legacy built on sheer volume

Ronaldo and Real Madrid were a match made in football heaven.

Not even a club of Man United’s stature could contain his ambition, his relentless pursuit to redefine expectation, or his hunger to push the sport to absurd limits.

His Real career has come at a time when every heel chop, stepover and gravity-defying header is documented in minute detail.

And yet still his record is scarcely believable.

It’s like an abstract modern art masterpiece; the longer you look at it, the more wonderfully ridiculous it becomes.

Fitting that perhaps his greatest Real Madrid goal came against Juventus

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Fitting that perhaps his greatest Real Madrid goal came against Juventus

Just as Real were the only club who could accommodate his intent, he was the only player who could have increased the club’s prestige.

In many ways, he was even bigger than the world’s biggest club.

Juventus have just gained hundreds of thousands of fans.

The Old Lady’s stock price increased nearly 20% in the hour after the transfer was officially announced.

Such is the gravity of the Ronaldo brand.

Long live CR7

EPA
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Long live CR7

Real’s four Champions League triumphs in five years is in debt too many individuals.

Sergio Ramos, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Marcelo, Karim Benzema and others have been influential in the club’s era of European dominance.

But Ronaldo has been the leading man throughout.

As a result, he is the greatest goalscorer in Champions League history.

He has somehow managed to make Europe’s premier club competition his own, despite the fact it is specifically designed to include pretty much all of the world’s absolute best players.

His form in 2017, when he followed up five goals in two legs against Bayern Munich in the quarters with a hat-trick against Atletico Madrid in the semi-final first leg, strengthened an already immovable legacy.

Iconic

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Iconic

In his last season for the club, he faced a torrent of unfair criticism for a player of his quality.

A dry patch before Christmas led to miles of column inches being devoted to the notion he had reached an abrupt expiration.

In response, he embarked on a devastating run of form that meant he ended the campaign with 44 goals from as many games at club level.

Never to be doubted

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Never to be doubted

His efforts have made a mockery of all that came before.

Taking nothing away from Raul, but compare his record to Ronaldo’s and suddenly appears average.

It’s not of course, but this is the effect Ronaldo has on even the most-cherished legends.

If the evidence was not there for all to see, you would mistake his legacy for mythology.

Farewell Cristiano, we will forever be in awe of your undisputed greatness.