Where Does Cristiano Ronaldo Rank Among Real Madrid Greats?

Phil KitromilidesFeatured ColumnistJanuary 7, 2013

MADRID, SPAIN - DECEMBER 04:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid follows the ball through as he takes a free kick during the UEFA Champions League Group D match between Real Madrid CF and Ajax Amsterdam at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on December 4, 2012 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

Preening Portuguese poser or ingenious Iberian iconoclast, Cristiano Ronaldo is a divisive character. Dismissed as arrogant by his detractors, the Real Madrid forward possesses a fierce desire to win and an extraordinarily powerful work ethic which have taken him from the relative footballing backwater of the island of Madeira to the very top of the world game.

Yet where does he rank in the pantheon of legendary players to have worn the white of Real Madrid and could he really be Los Blancos' greatest-ever player?

Ronaldo is certainly in good company when discussing who is Madrid's all-time best footballer with the likes of Zinedine Zidane, (Brazilian) Ronaldo and Raul all staking a claim in recent decades. Further back still, the club's honorary president Alfredo Di Stefano helped the side claim a record five successive European Cups in the 1950s and is perhaps synonymous with the club in a way that few other men will ever be.

Of course, this is a highly subjective matter and there could be a case to be made for the visionary genius of Zidane, the unsurpassed goalscoring prowess of Raul or indeed the bedazzling skill of Di Stefano. One thing that cannot be debated, however, is the cold, hard fact of Cristiano Ronaldo's scoring record, which has seen him net 126 league goals in his three and a half seasons with Los Blancos.

His average of a goal a game is comfortably the best of anyone else in Madrid's top-10, all-time scorers table and is a testament to his seemingly relentless ability to find the back of the net.

Furthermore, the fallacy that Ronaldo only shines against teams considered weaker than the current Spanish champions has been utterly exposed over the last season and a half, with the forward becoming the first Madrid player in history to score in four consecutive matches at the Camp Nou, and finding the back of the net in each of the last six Clasicos against Barcelona.

Far from the actions of a player who goes missing on the big occasions, these goals have seen Ronaldo lead from the front, and his strike in the 2-1 win in Barcelona towards the end of last season will forever be remembered by Madridistas as the goal that effectively won them their 32nd league title. 

But for the existence of a certain diminutive Argentine currently earning his living in Catalonia, Ronaldo would unquestionably be considered the greatest player of his generation. As it is, the man from the town of Funchal may just have to make do with the title of greatest ever Real Madrid star. Given the illustrious competition for such an accolade, it might just be of more value to Ronaldo.