The first time I ever stepped foot into the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, I was not a Cristiano Ronaldo fan, let alone a madridista. Nevertheless, my friend and I – seated way up in the cuarto anfiteatro behind a father and his son on a beautiful Sunday morning in January – watched in awe as Cristiano effortlessly netted a hat-trick against Getafe. The young boy began to chant, “Cristiaaaaano, Cristiaaaaano.” He waved his arms up and down. I cringed a little in my seat, while conscious of the fact that I was witnessing something truly special on the pitch below me.
Over time – thanks in large part to my short, intense love affair with the equipo madrileño after living a couple of kilometers away from the stadium for half of a year – I grew to love Cristiano and his crazy ways, as well as Real Madrid. I felt as though I had witnessed a truly transformative process, one in which the Portuguese superstar had transformed into a mature public figure and immense leader (he was already a crack; that’s a given).
I grew to love Cristiano and his crazy ways, as well as Real Madrid.
So it should come as no surprise to hear that I have a beaming smile on my face right now, and it’s not going anywhere. I think I speak for madridismo when I say that I could care less if you hate him – we love him with all of our hearts and always will. You know why I’m writing this too: Cristiano scored a brace against Malmö yesterday, and it wasn’t just any brace, it included his 500th career goal and 324th in a Madrid jersey, just enough to surpass Raúl as Madrid’s all-time leading goalscorer.
If you’re confused about the numbers being thrown around – some news outlets are reporting 323, while the club claims 324 and a record-breaking performance – it all depends on whether or not you choose to include a goal against Real Sociedad from back in 2011, a long-range free kick blasted off Pepe’s back and in.
Cristiano’s first strike of the night came in the 29th minute, when he converted on a brilliant ball sent in by Isco to put the visitors up 1-0 in Switzerland. This was his 500th goal for both club and country in 753 official games. WTF.
In the 90th, he scored a less dazzling but equally important and effective tap in to seal the deal.
“As long as football is measured in goals, Cristiano is, pound for pound, the most profitable player in club history,” said Marca’s Santiago Siguero after the match. “Most profitable player in club history.” In Real Madrid history. Let that sink in.
Since moving to Madrid in 2009, Cristiano has scored 324 goals in 308 games. Can you believe that?! And it’s taken him 400 fewer games to reach the 323 mark (club legend Raúl did so in 741). On top of this, Ronaldo has now improved his UCL goal count to 82 – five clear of Lionel Messi – and leads in braces scored over tournament history with 22.
Real Madrid Manager Rafael Benítez commented after the match that Cristiano has surpassed Raúl – who was phenomenal – and that shows that he’s scored tons of goals. Let’s hope there’s no limit.” We’re right there with you, Rafa. It’s performances like these that lead to hashtags like #YoViJugarACristianoRonaldo, and #DeQuéPlanetaViniste.
Felicidades, crack. Here’s to a couple more in the derbi madrileño this Sunday.