Nine years and 15 trophies later, Cristiano Ronaldo leaves Real Madrid as arguably their best-ever player and one of the true greats of the modern game. Although the Juventus new boy may not have found the net in Kiev back in May, a third successive Champions League triumph proved to be the swansong he deserved. With 450 goals in all for Los Blancos, picking his top 10 isn’t an easy task, but here they are…
10. vs. Villarreal (23/9/09)
Cristiano Ronaldo’s first record breaker in the iconic all-white strip. CR7 (although wearing No 9 at the time) picked up a loose ball in his own half, left a trail of yellow shirts behind him and smashed a low shot past Diego Lopez at his near post. This was the first time in history that a Real Madrid player scored in each his first four games, signalling the start of an era.
9. vs. Atletico Madrid (11/4/12)
Although Ronaldo netted a hat-trick in Real Madrid’s Liga meeting with city rivals Atletico Madrid in April 2012, one of them really stood out. A trademark set-piece from all of 40 yards out, the Portugal captain placed the ball down with purpose, lined it up with his typical pose and smashed a glorious free kick into the bottom-right corner of Thibaut Courtois’ net. It was his 41st goal of the season and one that restored Los Merengues’ four-point lead at the top of the table.
8. vs. Barcelona (21/4/12)
The stakes could not have been higher. Madrid had not won a Liga title for four years and met Barcelona at Camp Nou in April 2012, needing a win to all-but-secure the championship. Sami Khedira’s scrappy goal had given Los Blancos the lead, just to see it wiped out by Alexis Sanchez, but their build-up to the winner was something special. The defence kept possession well, before Mesut Ozil picked out a peach of a pass to the offside-beating Ronaldo, who showed great composure to stay on his strong side and fire past Victor Valdes at his near post. This secured the first of Ronaldo’s two Primera titles.
7. vs. Rayo Vallecano (26/2/12)
Ronaldo has always had a penchant for skill moves, although this has often been criticised by fans and pundits alike due to a low success rate. Nonetheless, his goal against Rayo Vallecano in February 2012 showed that it wasn’t all in vain. A zipping cross found its way to the 33-year-old just in front of the penalty spot, and although he had his back to goal, he smashed it low with his heel into the Rayo net to make it 2-1. CR7 described that game as his hardest-fought win to date, so the unexpected was truly needed.
6. vs. Barcelona (20/4/11)
April 2011 was a difficult time for Madrid. Los Blancos faced Barcelona four times in the space of 18 days, and with the first three ending resulting in the Blaugrana dumping them out of the Champions League and piping them to the League title, morale was at an all-time low. Yet deep into the second half of extra time, Angel Di Maria started a counter-attack at the semi-circle and sent a perfect dipping cross towards the far post. Ronaldo out-jumped marker Dani Alves to smash a bullet header past Jose Pinto and win the Copa del Rey for Madrid. With Los Blancos taking the League 12 months later, it was very much a turning point.
5. vs. Juventus (3/6/17)
A Champions League Final against arguably the best defence since Carlo Ancelotti’s Milan? No problem. Ronaldo was born for situations like these and got the ball rolling in the 20th minute. Loyal chance creator Dani Carvajal was once more causing havoc down his right flank, but instead of playing one of his usual heat-seeking crosses, the full-back played it short to Ronaldo, who was prowling on the edge of the box, and his low shot curled away from Gianluigi Buffon in goal to nestle in his bottom right. Although Juve briefly got back into the game, they never really settled, with CR7 finding the net again in the 64th minute.
4. vs. Borussia Dortmund (6/12/17)
Much like Ronaldinho’s heralded effort against Chelsea in 2005, Ronaldo had very little time or space to make an impact from an unfavourable position, but a quick glance up and a swing of his right boot left the Borussia Dortmund defenders in awe as a perfectly-placed curler from 25 yards out sailed through the crowd and into the top corner. With the first few months of the 2017-18 season proving difficult for Madrid, they needed their talisman more than ever and he duly produced.
3. vs. Galatasaray (17/9/13)
In this age of Ronaldo v Messi, it has often been said that Lionel Messi is a magician and Ronaldo is a machine, and although the comparisons may have some substance, they’ve both shown they can do it all. Ronaldo hit a hat-trick in what turned out to be a 6-1 drubbing against Galatasary, but the third goal was something Messi-esque. Cristiano heel-chopped between two defenders and squeezed past a third at the near post, before smashing past the onrushing Fernando Muslera with his weaker left foot. Although Ronaldo’s overall game is more about finding the net than creating his own chances, it doesn’t mean he can’t do both.
2. vs. Atletico Madrid (27/5/17)
In recent years, the Real Madrid-Atletico rivalry has stretched into the Champions League, and although the two shared Finals in 2014 and 2016, the most notable performance from a single player came in the semi-finals of 2017. After almost 700 minutes without a goal, it had been claimed that Ronaldo was passed his best, but the former Manchester United attacker produced arguably his finest Champions League performance by putting away a hat-trick, which sent Madrid to Cardiff. The pick of the bunch was a wonderful volley from the edge of the area, which screamed into the roof of the net, leaving Jan Oblak helpless.
1. vs. Juventus (4/4/18)
Perhaps the goal that took Ronaldo to Juve came against the Italian giants at their own stadium. The Bianconeri were missing several key players in this fiery quarter-final but still had the measure of Madrid, until Ronaldo stepped up. A penalty-box scramble saw the ball drift out wide to Carvajal. The Spaniard produced a typically-brilliant cross, but what came next was something truly special. Ronaldo met it with the perfect bicycle kick, which rippled Buffon’s bottom right, sending Juventus Stadium into a rampage. The respect Juve fans showed Ronaldo with a standing ovation is said to be the reason why he chose to leave for Italy.