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The Top 10 Greatest Footballers of all time No. 4 – Cristiano Ronaldo

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Football has seen many great players over the years, many of which were, and continue, to be household names around the globe. The game has changed drastically, but the talent of the players has not, and many of the players who are commonly regarded as some of the best of all time plied their trade well-before the game turned into the mega-business it now is. Every sport has their all-time legends and contemporary stars, and none more so than football, and comparing players of different generations is an impossible task. 

Here at The Sports Lowdown, we attempt to do just that. In our top 1o countdown, our specialist team of football writers will formulate a list of the greatest players of all time in reverse order, commencing at 8am on Monday and finishing at 6pm that same day. 

Pele? Maradona? Messi? Zidane? Keep a watchful eye on proceedings at The Sports Lowdown to find out who we have picked as our top 10 players of all time, and as usual we would love to hear your views, so any comments would be greatly appreciated! 

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Number 4: Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo is highly regarded as one of the greatest players of all time. The Portuguese winger has worked his way up from rags to riches and is now side to side with Lionel Messi consistently battling for the prestigious Ballon d’Or award. There have been many arguments about who is the better player between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo but personally I just like to look it at as a compliment to football, being able to watch two unbelievable footballers playing for rival football teams, scoring and creating goals and making fans watch in awe at their unreal talent. The comparisons are totally unparalleled as the players are both at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of their playing style; both are good in their own ways.

Cristiano Ronaldo, three time Ballon d’Or winner, and the winner of the award for the last two years running has created a name for himself all around the world. Everybody knows who Cristiano Ronaldo is even if they don’t have the faintest interest in football, he’s an icon – fashion, charity, football – the Portugal star is very reputable for his actions on the pitch and some of his antics such as his diving, play-acting etc. have created a bad impression of him. Although, he may be hated on the pitch, his charitable personality and background makes him a very likeable person. He’s recognised mainly though for his talent on the field and more than anything people claim he’s one of the greatest of all time, especially down to the fact he’s proved himself in two of Europe’s top leagues – the Premier League & La Liga.

When the 30-year-old first came to England, he was unheard of but had attracted interest from many teams around Europe including Manchester United’s great rivals Liverpool who turned down the chance to sign him only a season earlier. It was, however, Sir Alex Ferguson that was willing to take the punt on the young lad. Cristiano, looking very lean and lacking physical presence, had people wondering whether he’d be able to adapt to the English game. His first game for United was a substitute appearance against Bolton in which he came off the bench to produce what Sir Alex described as a “marvellous” performance. His early performances for the club had many Manchester United legends hailing him for his ability, George Best had said he was “special”. However, it took Ronaldo a few seasons to really hit the mark in English football. He wasn’t always the world-class player we see today, there were times when you’d think he was just another over-rated youngster who’d have a few good games here and there but eventually the Portuguese sensation really showed his true potential and enlightened the footballing world of what he was really capable of.

United legend Sir Bobby Charlton hailed Ronaldo saying “He does things I have never seen from any other player and it really is marvellous to watch. It takes a great player to grab the bull by the horns and make things happen, but he has done it repeatedly. He has been even better than people here thought he would be and that’s saying something.” In 2006/07, Cristiano Ronaldo netted a total of 17 league goals and an additional 6 in other competitions taking his total to 23. The now-30-year-old had really improved his physical game as well and was no longer seen as that very skinny, lean player that he was when he first joined United.

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It was only a season later that Ronaldo made it clear of his true ability, this immediately alerted other clubs around Europe such as Real Madrid and Barcelona however Man United were also on that global scale so rumours of him leaving halted. He successfully managed 31 goals in 34 games and brought his total in all competitions to a staggering 42. His goals brought Champions League and Premier League success for Manchester United as they managed the double. Ronaldo, himself, claimed an accolade of awards including the Golden Boot, PFA Player of the Season, Best Forward, Player of the Tournament (Champions League) and the European Golden Shoe award. A deal for Cristiano Ronaldo was close to completion in the summer of 2008 however it didn’t materialise and United were adamant of keeping hold of their talisman for just one more season – which they did – and despite him missing two months at the beginning of the season, his goals once again helped United to the Premier League title.

The summer of 2009 saw Cristiano Ronaldo move to Spanish giants Real Madrid for £80,000,000 breaking the world transfer record. Ronaldo was seen as a huge statement of intent for Real Madrid as they aimed to continue to challenge Barcelona for the La Liga title and in order to rival the Catalonians, they needed a player with immense talent and ability to take them to that next step. That player was Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portugese winger’s contract was worth around £8m-per-year. Ronaldo was an instant hit in Madrid and settled straight away. He scored a penalty on his La Liga debut and finished his first season with 33 goals in 35 games. Since, he has gone on to break records, win trophies and more. With a goalscoring record of 323 goals in 309 games at Real Madrid, he’s only recently become the clubs all-time top goalscorer in all competitions and is the clubs leading goalscorer in La Liga history. His goals to game ratio stands high above the rest with 1.05, more than a goal per game – no other Real Madrid player in the top 10 has managed to achieve this. Ronaldo also holds the records of most goals in a single La Liga season for Real Madrid – 48 – and has the record for most goals scored in all competitions – 63.

There’s no denying that the Portuguese sensation has set the world alight with his unbelievable footballing ability. The comparisons with Messi are always drawn towards him though and sometimes it can be quite unfair as Messi’s name is always shown in a greater light than Ronaldo’s. The 30-year-old holds a record over his Argentine rival that has been back and forth between the two for some time now and that is the all-time top goalscorer in the Champions League. Ronaldo’s tally stands at 82 goals whilst Messi trails behind with 77 goals however there has been many occasions when it has flickered between the two players but now it seems Ronaldo has taken a firm lead, albeit having played 30 more games.

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Ronaldo’s commonly known for his arrogance since joining Madrid and his reaction to winning the Ballon d’Or had many people slandering him. Since joining the Spanish giants, we have seen Ronaldo in a different light and his preferred attacking role now alternates between playing as a striker and a winger. His versatility in the attacking positions proves what great ability he possesses and from a tactical view, he is able to play more of a free role and drift inside and out whenever he wants during the game. Ronaldo’s very good on the ball and his vision and quick decision-making is decisive to his overall game as he’s able to play in his team-mates and create chances out of nothing. The 30-year-old is rather unpredictable on the ball and it’s hard to dictate what he’s going to do as he’s always one step ahead of everybody else and this is what separates him from other footballers.

Ronaldo’s known for his technical ability more than anything, the control and dribbling ability he possesses as well as him being prolific in front of goal. The physical game he holds has improved vastly over the years and his unbelievable work-rate and stamina as well as his lightning quick speed and acceleration has him standing as one of the fastest players in world football and making him unbearable to play against when he’s on the ball. However, even off the ball he’s very deceiving and smart, the Portugual star has a very good football mind and his positioning in the final third has him constantly in prime goalscoring positions which benefits Real Madrid’s forward play so much.

Ronaldo isn’t just the star of Real Madrid but in his home country of Portugal, he is the star of the national team and they heavily rely on him to play well for them. The 30-year-old winger has scored a total of 55 goals for his country in 123 games, not quite as impressive as his record for Real Madrid or Manchester United at club level however despite being surrounding by average players at International level he still manages to make an impact and he was key to Portugal reaching the Euro 2004 final, where they were beaten by Greece. The controversial sending off of Wayne Rooney in the World Cup in 2006 was another talking point for Ronaldo as he winked towards his coach after the red card was shown as if to say, “we’ve got their best player sent off, job done.” However Rooney was Ronaldo’s team-mate at club level and this really created a lot of fuel for the media as the Portuguese beat England on penalties to proceed to the semi-finals. This whole affair almost caused Ronaldo to leave United however Carlos Queiroz, Manchester United’s assistant manager at the time, talked him out of it and he ended up staying. Despite making the semi-finals, Portugal were defeated 1-0 by France and Ronaldo missed out on the Young Player of the Tournament award.

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Ronaldo is the most complete player in the history of the game: he does not have a visible weakness to his game. A good way to describe ‘CR7’ is that he is the perfect specimen of a football player: tall, strong, quick, skilful, two good feet, good in the air, effective off the ball and a deadly eye for goal. However, what makes Ronaldo the brilliant specimen he is, is his immense work-rate and dedication to the sport. Ever since his time at Manchester United, Ronaldo has shown that he is willing to go the extra mile and put the extra work in at training sessions, hence the reason he has ironed out his weakness over the years.

Yes, he does not possess the talent of other legends, namely Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona for instance, but he makes up it with a relentless work ethic, and a ceaseless motivation to better himself year after year. In terms of how he ranks compared to other greats: his inferior talent perhaps stops him from being higher up on this list, as some will say he does not produce the genius/ magical displays that other greats, but regardless, Ronaldo thoroughly deserves his place on this list.

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