For all his remarkable personal records, Cristiano Ronaldo’s Real Madrid career has been far from a stellar success. It’s maybe fitting that the jury is out on his Clasico legacy, too.
Since moving from Manchester United in 2009, Madrid’s all-time leading goalscorer has faced Barcelona 24 times. He has won just six of those games, and lost half of them.
His individual stats, perhaps unsurprisingly, make for better reading. He has scored 15 goals and set up one other. As Madrid were eager to point out this week, he has netted nine times in his last eight visits to Camp Nou.
So much of Ronaldo’s time in Spain has been weighed against the exploits of Lionel Messi, but when it comes to their head-to-head record in world football’s biggest fixture, there is little to split them: 24 games and 15 goals apiece. ‘Stalemate’ read a recent AS headline – even though Messi has failed to score in the last four.
0 – No Clásico between Barça and Real Madrid has ended goaless in all competitions since November 2002. Showtime.
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) March 31, 2016
“They are extremely unlucky to be a similar age and to have to compete with each other in the same generation,” former Barca winger Jordi Cruyff told Omnisport on March 18. “If one had been 10 years after then you could perfectly well say that both players are the best in the world in their time.”
The problem for Ronaldo, as with his overall time in Spain, is that the stunning solo efforts do not always equate to collective success. It’s been almost four years since his winner silenced Camp Nou en route to his only Liga title to date. The year before, a towering header saw him lift the Copa del Rey after a fiercely fought Clasico final; Madrid repeated the feat in 2013-14, though Gareth Bale was the hero then.
Including triumphs on the continental and global stage, Ronaldo has won seven trophies in his seven years at Madrid. Messi and Barcelona have lifted eighteen in that time, including four league titles. With Barca holding a 10-point advantage over Zinedine Zidane’s third-placed side (Atletico Madrid are a point ahead of Real in second) heading into Saturday’s game, it looks likely to become five.
It would appear, too, that time is against Ronaldo if he wants to claw back the difference. Unless Madrid face Barca in the Champions League beyond the quarter-finals, this week could see the 31-year-old bow out of the Clasico.
Despite agent Jorge Mendes’ insistence that his client is going nowhere, speculation persists that this could be his last season in La Liga. His 41 goals and 13 assists in 38 matches have not been enough to keep the Santiago Bernabeu from turning its frustrations on their talisman in what has proven to be another unsatisfying campaign.
He hasn’t always helped his own cause, either: he was poor in the 4-0 thrashing by Barca in November and publicly criticised Madrid players after their 1-0 derby defeat to Atletico.
.@Cristiano has scored nine goals in his last eight trips to the Camp Nou!
— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadriden) March 31, 2016
Ronaldo’s fitness has also been scrutinised – he sat out training on Wednesday after returning from Portugal duty – leading to rumours that Florentino Perez will consider cashing in on a goal machine that is, at long last, showing glimpses of slowing down. Talk this week that he is selling up his properties in the capital have done little to stop the rumour mill linking Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United with huge close-season offers.
Whatever the longer-term future holds, Ronaldo’s focus for now is on adding to Madrid’s solitary win in seven trips to Camp Nou. Bale, Sergio Ramos and Keylor Navas have all spoken of their belief that the title race is not yet run; Ronaldo, according to another team-mate, seems to agree.
“Every day, I’m surprised at Cristiano because he wants to work more, he always wants to win more. He’s an example for every footballer in the world,” said Casemiro to Cadena SER. “He’s never happy with his goals, he always wants more, and that’s why he’s the best player in the world.”
Ronaldo, it seems, is still hungry for glory – and Madrid need him to be. Their faint title hopes, the running battle with Messi, and his standing among the Clasico’s all-time greats, depend on it.