Cristiano Ronaldo's move to Real Madrid back in 2009 is undoubtedly one of the biggest in football's history. Not only was it for a world record fee but it ushered in a period of success that the club hadn't seen since the 1950s.
Ronaldo was already one of the world's best, but he kicked things up another gear at the Santiago Bernabeu, regularly setting goal-scoring records and establishing himself as one of the all-time greats.
Before we gush over Cristiano’s excellence, let’s travel back to May 15th, 2002. Hampden Park. Zidane. Volley. You know the rest. A Historical moment which highlighted the El Galactico era in full flow. Two Champions League titles in three seasons. Nine European Cups in total. The good old days.
It would be naïve to think it was ever going to last, but the downfall of Los Blancos was just as shocking. What followed next was a barren spell that no Real fan would like to endure again.
Between 2003 and 2009, Madrid won three LaLiga titles. That’s good going. But the key question: where was La Decima? The agonising struggle in the Champions League would be a perfect way to measure Los Blancos’ mid-2000s chaos.
A striker search which one could only describe as the (Not so) Magic roundabout included Brazilian Ronaldo, Raul, Gonzalo Higuain, Ruud van Nistelrooy. The managerial merry-go-round was worse. On the continent, the struggle was real. Five consecutive round of 16 exits, hardly an appropriate record for a side who had lifted the Champions League on nine previous occasions.
Then in the summer of 2009, everything changed with the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo. It didn’t prove to be an immediate success. A Copa del Rey and La Liga title was overshadowed by three years of falling short in the Champions League semi-finals under Jose Mourinho.
Still as Los Blancos were falling short in the Champions League, Cristiano was scoring goals. A lot of them. 201 in his first four seasons in just 199 games. Superhuman levels.
The following year, in 2014 Galactico 2.0 was created. And Cristiano would cement his Madrid legacy forever. Everything he ever did before and since will always be usurped by the holy grail of those associated with ‘The White Club’ – La Decima.
To emphasise how key CR7 was in this campaign; 17 goals in 11 matches. His highest European campaign tally to date in a season which totalled 51 club goals in all competitions.
With the weight of La Decima off their shoulders, Real Madrid stormed to three more Champions League trophies in the next four years. They defeated Atletico on penalties in Milan, Ronaldo’s spot-kick was the decisive one, before beating Juventus in Cardiff (Ronaldo scored twice) and Liverpool in Kyiv.
The Lisbon final of 2014 really did change the course of Real Madrid's history, and Ronaldo’s.
Of eight of his nine seasons in the Spanish capital, he finished top of the scoring charts for Madrid. He snapped up a total of four Ballon d'Or titles, taking his overall haul to five. Talking of which, who could forget his relentless battles with a certain Lionel Messi?
Let’s not forget he dragged the 2002 Madrid hero, Zidane through the latest glory years, and even outstripped his own achievements and his own high points on that nexus of technical quality and context.
The finish and “calm down” gesture in El Clasico.
The guilty goal at Old Trafford.
The hat-trick against city rivals Atletico.
The overhead kick against Juventus.
The list is endless. As too is Cristiano Ronaldo’s dynasty at Real Madrid.
He came to Madrid as a machine in the making. With 450 goals to boot and 15 trophies, he left as the greatest.
"In your life you do not win without sacrifices and you must take risks”
That’s what Ronaldo said after playing through an injury to help Madrid to that long-awaited 10th European trophy. His greatest risk morphed into his greatest reward.
Without him, another haunting decade faces Madrid. Galactico 3.0 anybody? Can we really wait that long?