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Monday, March 26, 2018

Cristiano: nine years with the Real Madrid

Por Fidel Orihuela

On July 6, 2009, Cristiano Ronaldo landed in Madrid and was introduced as a player. He was coming from Manchester United and he had just one goal in mind: to write a golden story with his new team. It’s been almost a decade since that day. At least 80,000 fans attended his presentation at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. It was very peculiar that the amount of people reunited was there just for his introduction because no team was playing on that day. However, the winning thirst of the fans and the newcomer’s achievements were the motivation for such a welcoming gathering.

In 2009, Ronaldo was the subject of the most expensive association football transfer when he moved from Manchester United to Real Madrid in a deal worth €94 million (£80 million). He entered the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium shouting a memorable Hala Madrid! which had the fans shouting in a frenzy. Florentino Perez, the president of the team along with former Madrid player Alfredo Di Stefano presented him to the audience.

Ronaldo received the number 9 shirt, presented to him by Di Stefano, the legend that had won the firsts UEFA Champions League in the fifties. Since his arrival, he caused great commotion, partly because of the exorbitant price they paid for him and partly because of his credentials. Only months before he had conquered with the Manchester United the Premier League, the UEFA Champions League title, the FIFA Club World Cup and the Ballon d'Or award, undoubtedly an impressive trajectory that brought hope to the fans.

His first season at Real Madrid ended trophyless. His strong start was interrupted when he suffered an ankle injury while on international duty, which kept him sidelined for seven weeks. This, along with the eternal battle against the Catalonians of the FC Barcelona and the permanent comparison with the Argentinian Lionel Messi were the first things that he had to undergo when he arrived to his new team. He finished the campaign with 33 goals in all competitions (35 games). A prolific goalscorer, Ronaldo has lashed out his rivals in the field.

With the Real Madrid, he surpassed all of his Manchester United records. For the sixth successive year, he scored more than 50 goals across all competitions (including two of them in which he scored more than 60 goals) and he has also the most goals scored in a UEFA Champions League (17 in the season of 2014) helping the Madrid team win its tenth Champions title.

Only in the recently concluded campaign, he did not reach the amount of fifty goals but the goalscoring capacity he showed at the end of the La Liga and the UEFA Champions League gave the Real Madrid the two titles in a historic feat, because this was something that had not been achieved in the last fifty years. As it is only logical, his collective titles won with the Real Madrid and the role he has played in them, have allowed him to get the Ballon d'Or award for five times and he is tied for most all-time with Lionel Messi.

Time has passed by and CR7 is not the same player that he used to be. He has evolved accordingly to his physical possibilities. For example, at his 33 years old, he is not as fast as he used to be and he does not use his pace and acceleration, agility, and technical skills to take on opponents in one-on-one situations like he used to do. He does not attempt the stepovers anymore, a dribbling that was once his trademark. However, now he needs few opportunities to score a goal, disrupting the opposing team's marking with great ability. He also participates in build-up plays courtesy of his good vision and passing ability.

While ostensibly right-footed, he is very strong with both feet, with an accurate and powerful shot. His strength, combined with his elevation and height of 1.85 m (6 ft. 1 in) provides him with edge in winning aerial challenges for balls; consequently, many of his goals have been headers. All of these things distinguish himself as a great forward center. Undoubtedly, nine years later, after more than 400 games and more than 400 goals scored we can say that for sure the Real Madrid has fully recovered all the money they spent when they signed up Cristiano Ronaldo.