Real Madrid star responds to Barcelona's Lionel Messi as battle of the world's best goes on
The Portuguese has now racked up a century in just over two seasons at the Spanish side, following on from the Argentine's 200th goal for the Catalans on Tuesday night
Hitting the target | Ronaldo has a phenomenal strike-rate at Madrid
Their names are inextricably linked. Say 'Messi' and people will reply 'Ronaldo'; mutter Cristiano and you'll hear 'Leo' - much in the same way football fans in Spain automatically associate Barcelona and Real Madrid.And the players themselves seem to react to the phenomenon, too. It has happened countless times over the last two years; Messi hits a hat-trick or produces a match-winning performances, then so does Ronaldo. Or vice versa. The competition seems to bring out the best in both men.
Love him or hate him, it is impossible not to admire his talents. Cristiano brings out stronger sentiments in both camps due to his media-friendly but perceived pretentious persona. While Messi is one of a dying breed of street-style, fantasy footballers, Ronaldo is a polished product - a supreme athlete and the complete modern-day player. Tall, strong, fast, two-footed and technically superb, the Portuguese has the attributes to adapt to any side and while his €94 million fee was hugely criticised as Madrid paid Manchester United the extraordinary sum in the middle of a global financial crisis two years ago, it will go down as one of the best investments made by the capital club in recent years.Indeed, with Barcelona dominating both at home and abroad, Madrid simply had to sign Ronaldo. The Portuguese is the undisputed leader of this Real side, the flag-bearer and the inspiration; he is the man who gives Madrid fans hope of overturning their fiercest foes.
And he has already done it once, with his brilliant header to win last season's Copa del Rey final against Barca at Mestalla. That, one of eight headed goals in the 100, brought the club their first piece of silverware in almost three seasons and made Madrid fans believe that their Portuguese plan, led by Mourinho on the bench and Ronaldo on the pitch, could be the way back to glory.Ronaldo is often accused of being too individualistic, but the Portuguese values team trophies more than personal prizes. This season, he looks to have learned more of a group ethic, too, having created seven assists already. "Maybe he will score less goals this season," Mourinho said recently. "But win more big trophies."
That is the plan. At the moment, though, he isn't scoring less - just providing more. The Portuguese now has 100 goals as a Madrid player, and his strike-rate has remained consistent ever since signing for the Spanish side.
Under Manuel Pellegrini, Ronaldo was sidelined for two months through injury but still managed 33 goals in 35 competitions. And in his second season, with Mourinho now at the club, the Portuguese racked up an astonishing 53 goals - the same as Messi, incidentally - in 54 games.
And this season, he now has 14 in 16, just under a goal a game once more. The last of those, a penalty to seal a 2-0 win at Lyon on Wednesday, brought up the century, just one night after Messi's 200th for Barca in Prague.Comparisons will continue between the world's finest footballers and, probably, the two top teams in Europe and beyond, as Barca and Madrid fight it out for La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the Champions League this term.
"It's not time to compare, or to think abour Barcelona," Ronaldo explained after the win against Lyon - the club's ninth straight success. "I'm just happy for the team and I'd like to thank my team-mates and the coach, who gives me the chance to play and grow as a player and as a person."
Privately, though, he will be thinking about Barcelona and probably his next 100 goals, too. But this time with a few more team trophies to go alongside them. The battle with Barcelona - and Messi, too - goes on.