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Debunking the myth that Ronaldo rounded the goalkeeper for 21% of his goals

The world is currently awash with fake news and nostalgic football.

One minute you’re being bombarded by Facebook messages from a distant relative urging you to drink honey, pepper and milk upside down, the next you’re gazing at Rui Costa putting Phil Neville through a washing machine at Euro 2004.

What better time, then, to revisit one of nostalgic football’s greatest lies? According to the internet, Ronaldo- El Fenomeno to those of a certain age- dribbled round the goalkeeper for 21% of his goals.

Richard Kingson buying a one-way ticket back to Blackpool

AP:Associated Press
Richard Kingson buying a one-way ticket back to Blackpool

Think about that for a second. Every fifth goal scored by Ronaldo for Cruzeiro, PSV, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Corinthians and Brazil left a goalkeeper on all fours. Ronaldo was undoubtedly a genius, but that seems dubious, as will now be proved.

Just as the internet taketh with fake news, it also giveth with the ability to watch every one of Ronaldo’s goals. From the first youthful ruffle of the net at Cruzeiro to the last bloated strike at Corinthians, every goal is on YouTube in varying degrees of clarity.

In doing so, it becomes apparent that Ronaldo went round the goalkeeper for 11% of his total career goals, a drop of 10% on what the internet would have you believe.

Was this all just an excuse to watch every goal Ronaldo has ever scored? Of course it was. However, there is serious work to be done. Admittedly you shouldn’t ever let the truth get in the way of a good story, but Ronaldo’s tapestry is rich enough without fabrication.

That tapestry begins as a gangly 16-year-old at Belo Horizonte powerhouse Cruzeiro.

What would you do if he turned up on a Sunday?

What would you do if he turned up on a Sunday?

Cruzeiro: 3 out of 44 goals scored rounding the goalkeeper (7%)

Ronaldo was just two goals into his senior career when he first experienced the rush of sitting a goalkeeper down seconds prior to walking the ball into an open net, something he would execute three times for Cruzeiro.

Adriano Silva’s career surmounted to a handful of games for Flamengo before an odyssey into the Brazilian lower leagues, but he can always tell the grandkids about the day- 18th September 1993- when Ronaldo swerved his hips to the left with the subtlety of a Cuban Rumba dancer and left Silva scrambling.

Ronaldo repeated the trick against Bahia before the pièce de résistance against Boca Juniors in the Copa Libertadores. Receiving the ball on the half turn inside the semi-circle, Ronaldo twisted in and out of three snarling tackles and sat Boca goalkeeper Carlos Navarro down with a shimmy to score his best goal in a Cruzeiro shirt.

Those watching on from Eindhoven had seen enough.

PSV Eindhoven: 5 out of 54 goals scored rounding the goalkeeper (9%)

Ronaldo took to Europe like geese to an oblivious pensioner’s freshly unwrapped sandwich, tucking away 30 goals in his first Eredivise season and forming a devastating partnership with Belgian Luc Nilis.

Heerenveen’s Carlo L’Ami had the pleasure of being the first goalkeeper rounded by Ronaldo, with the Dutchman’s despairing slide leaving him stricken on his backside as the Brazilian rolled the ball home.

But the main victim of Ronaldo’s antics was undoubtedly Petri Jakonen. The Brazilian rounded Jakonen on his way to scoring four goals in a 7-1 UEFA Cup win against Finnish side MYPA, one of four hat-tricks he netted during his time at PSV.

Ronaldo scored 54 goals- five of which involved bamboozling fallen goalkeepers- in 57 games at PSV. But following the climax of the 1996 season he decided it was time to leave the Netherlands and head off in search of some Catalan sun.

Barcelona: 8 out of 47 goals scored rounding the goalkeeper (17%)

This was Ronaldo at his goalkeeper-rounding peak. La Liga’s Goalkeeping Union didn’t know what hit it. As soon as the Brazilian took the field La Liga’s keepers went week at the knees.

Real Zaragoza’s Juanmi got done twice in one game. As for pointless stats, all but two of the goalkeepers rounded played for teams named ‘Real’ (Zaragoza, Sociedad, Valladolid & Oviedo), and yet Real Madrid’s Bodo Illgner managed to avoid the embarrassment.

Ronaldo’s iconic goal for Barcelona would prove to be his Herculean dribble against Compostela, but his trademark strike at the Camp Nou was undoubtedly one in which he leaves the goalkeeper on all fours.

While not quite the infamous 21%, Ronaldo’s rounding rate was on the rise. Then came a move to the San Siro.

Inter Milan: 10 out of 59 goals scored rounding the goalkeeper (17%)

Anything Barcelona Ronaldo could do Inter Ronaldo could do… just as well. The Brazilian carried his rounding rate of 17% over from Barcelona following a shock world-record move to Inter, with Roma’s Michael Konsel danced around no less than three times.

Spartak Moscow’s Aleksandr Filimonov was another goalkeeper who had the pleasure of being sat down more than once as Inter, but the most memorable moment of magic came against Lazio’s Luca Marchegiani in the 1998 UEFA Cup final.

Rushing on to a through ball by Francesco Moriero, Ronaldo met Marchegiani with a double stepover, crumbling the keeper in half and leaving Lazio’s Alessandro Nesta watching on in despair.

The goal capped off arguably Ronaldo’s greatest performance and sealed what was surprisingly the only piece of silverware lifted during his five-season stint at Inter. In search of trophies, Ronaldo succumbed to the call of the Galactico.

Real Madrid: 11 out of 104 goals scored rounding the goalkeeper (11%)

Life was all fun and games for Valencia’s Andres Palop until Ronaldo turned up and put him on his behind five games into his Real Madrid career, thanks chiefly to a glorious outside-of-the-foot-pass-that-wouldn’t-look-amiss-on-the-bowling-green by Zinedine Zidane.

A change of goalkeepers did nothing to help when Ronaldo repeated the trick against Valencia in their next encounter, this time ruining the previously pristine reputation of Santiago Canizares.

Finally, just to prove it wasn’t a fluke Ronaldo did it again for a third time against Valencia, doubling up on Canizares’ misery.

Despite his antics against Valencia, Ronaldo’s rounding rate dropped to 11% at Madrid, plunging him further away from the vaunted 21% mark.


AC Milan: 0 out of 9 goals scored rounding the goalkeeper (0%)

By this stage of his career Ronaldo’s reputation was starting to be matched by his weight, making the journey round the goalkeeper slighly more arduous that it had been in the glory years.

Despite his plump figure, Ronaldo was prolific in his first season at AC Milan, joining in January of 2007 and scoring seven goals in 14 appearances.

Another devastating knee injury suffered the following season put an end to any progress in Milan and ultimately signalled the end of Ronaldo as we knew him, although there would still be time for one last sojourn in Brazil.

Corinthians: 2 goals out of 35 scored rounding the goalkeeper (6%)

History has shown you can never write Ronaldo off, but even his most-vociferous fans must have looked away in horror as the Brazilian struggled to get a Corinthians shirt over his ever-broadening shoulders.

They needn’t have worried. Ronaldo’s knees were shot to pieces and he couldn’t spring an offside trap if it was comprised of four grandmas dressed as snails, but the magic was still there.

Ronaldo was forced to improvise like never before, cutting and chipping galore in a bid to circumnavigate his complete lack of pace.

Despite the walking stick, Ronaldo still managed to work his way around two goalkeepers before limping off into the sunset and retiring in 2011, accompanied by a cacophony of sighs of relief from goalkeepers the world over.

Brazil: 9 out of 73 goals scored rounding the goalkeeper (12%)

There are few more iconic images than Ronaldo wearing the canary yellow of Brazil, something he did 73 times including exhibition and Olympic appearances.

England’s Tim Flowers has the distinction of being the first goalkeeper rounded by Ronaldo on the international stage, and award which sits proudly on his mantelpiece alongside the 1995 Premier League trophy.

Ronaldo’s final salvo came at the 2006 World Cup, with Ghana’s Richard Kingson split in half by a signature stepover in what proved to be the striker’s last goal for Brazil.

With that, Ronaldo signed out in style.

NOW READ: What was it actually like to defend against Ronaldo?