On Thursday 11 June 2009, Manchester United and Real Madrid agreed on a record-breaking price for Cristiano Ronaldo.
This would finally see him move from the Premier League champions to the Spanish capital, and end his six-year association with the Red Devils.
A year previous Man Utd manager Sir Alex Ferguson had warned off the Portuguese genius from the switch;
“I genuinely believe that he knows what the best club in the world is for him, and that is Manchester United” the great Scot said, on the back of an incredible double-winning season but when speculation was rife that Ronaldo’s time at Old Trafford was coming to an end.
Ronaldo agreed to one more campaign, won the Premier League for the third year running and reached the Champions League Final again. Then the move was back on the table.
After eight years of Zinedine Zidane holding the world record transfer fee for a player (£45.6m, again to Los Blancos), Real Madrid went and smashed it twice in a matter of days in that summer of ‘09, firstly with the acquisition of the AC Milan star Kaká for £56m before Ronaldo was unveiled shortly after, at the time the most expensive footballer in history.
It’s of course an understatement to say that Ronaldo’s period at the Spanish behemoths was the more successful. Kaká had signed a six-year contract, but returned to Italy with the Rossoneri just four years in.
Cristiano Ronaldo, meanwhile, has a legitimate claim to be Real Madrid’s greatest ever player.
Both players made their league debuts on 29 August 2009. Though Kaká had broken his duck in the pre-season ten days earlier in a 5-0 win over Borussia Dortmund, it was Ronaldo who got off the mark first in a competitive fixture. Ronaldo, wearing the Number 9 at the time in lying in waiting for Raul’s departure and ‘7’ shirt, planted the ball from the spot in a 3-2 win over Deportivo La Coruña.
That game, which also saw the debut of another marquee acquisition in Karim Benzema, a £35.8m summer signing from Olympique Lyonnais, was the first of Ronaldo’s 438 appearance for Real, and astoundingly the first of 450 goals for the club (an unprecedented 1.07 goals to game ratio); he would eventually propel himself to be Los Merengues’ all time top goalscorer in just under a decade.
Moreover, he would finish the club’s top goalscorer in every single campaign he was at the club.
At the time of his debut the head coach was Manuel Pellegrini, who had also arrived in that same off-season. Ronaldo would go onto to serve under five different managers during his career in Madrid, before leaving in another brobdingnagian move to Serie A giants Juventus in 2018.
He finally swapped the Bernabeu for the Allianz, having claimed a mammoth silverware haul including a brace of La Liga titles, a couple of Copa del Reys, and four additional Champions League trophies to complete an unparalleled tally in the competition.
Of his 450 goals (and who doesn’t love a nice round number), 129 (28.7%) were match-winners
306 were scored with his deadly right foot, the ire of many a goalkeeper, with 74 scored with the other. The 6’1” forward produced 70 headers, and produced 39 successful direct free-kicks.
His lowest scoring La Liga season tallied in his penultimate; still impressive at 25 but a good 23 (!) behind what he had managed in the 2014/15 (albeit without any major trophies to show for the effort).
Former Blanco Omar Mascarell has made the audacious claim that Benzema has been the world’s best centre-forward of the past decade. Granted, Mascarell made just one first-team appearance for Real Madrid in a three-year period after progressing from the Castilla but his praise has some credibility.
Benzema currently sits sixth on Real Madrid’s all-time goalscorers list after a decade at the club, and is closing in on all-time great Ferenc Puskas in the rankings. He also has a marginally better goals-to-game ratio than club legends Raul and Santillana.
The current Madrid number 9 however took 55 more games to score the same amount of goals in all competitions Ronaldo did when he was adorned with the same shirt number, and 36 more games to score the amount of goals Ronaldo did at Madrid when he was number 9 in La Liga. Ronaldo swapped shirt numbers after his maiden season. In the 2009/10 season, he had registered 0.94 goals per game, with 33 in 35.
The list of records Ronaldo has under his belt is legitimately breathtaking. He tops the Champions League all-time goalscorers list as well, with 105 of his 126 goals (in 101 games) in the competition coming which representing Madrid, and of course, complementing his record-tally of trophies in the tournament.
In the domestic league, Ronaldo registered 311 goals in 292 games, averaging out at 34.6 in a 38-game season. His record as Real Madrid’s greatest ever goalscorer doesn’t look surpassable.
And it all began with that spotkick against Deportivo La Coruña.