By Matt Gatward
It is exceedingly early in Ronaldo's Real Madrid CF career to be predicting the wisdom of his controversial €45m transfer from Internazionale FC, but the manner of his debut on Sunday puts him in exalted company that would suggest his decision may well be vindicated in time.
Within a minute
The Brazilian scored twice after coming on as a substitute in the 5-2 victory over Deportivo Alavés. Indeed, his first goal came within a minute of him running on to the Santiago Bernabéu turf. "My first game, a win for Real Madrid and two goals," he said. "I could not have dreamt of a better start. It's been wonderful, almost magical." And it augurs well.
Alfredo di Stéfano, arguably the greatest player to wear the white of Madrid, also scored on his debut in the 1953/54 season before leading the club to an unparalleled run of success with five European Champion Clubs' Cup victories between 1956 and 1960.
Emilio Butragueño, a Madrid great of more recent vintage, came off the bench to turn a two-goal Madrid deficit into a 3-2 win against Cádiz CF with two goals. Hugo Sánchez, the somersaulting Mexican and Primera División top scorer for five successive seasons during the late 1980s and early 1990s, also scored on his debut as the Merengues drew 2-2 with Real Betis Balompié.
Not only in Madrid have great players made scoring starts. Diego Maradona, indisputably the finest player of his generation, struck on his debut for FC Barcelona in 1982, albeit in a 2-1 defeat by Valencia CF.
Johan Cruyff scored twice on his Azulgrana debut against Granada CF in 1973, while Gary Lineker, the England striker, also started with a double in a 4-2 defeat of Racing de Santander in 1986. Romario went one better with a hat-trick on his debut against Real Sociedad in 1993, and Rivaldo also scored on his Barcelona debut in 1997.
Looking further afield, few strikers down the years have made a better first impression than Jimmy Greaves, arguably the finest finisher in England in the 1960s. Greaves had a remarkable record with debut goals for Chelsea FC, AC Milan, Tottenham Hotspur FC, West Ham United FC and England.
More recently Alan Shearer was 17 when he scored three times on his debut for Southampton FC at Arsenal FC in 1988. Two more goals followed on his Blackburn Rovers FC debut in 1992, the same year the present-day Newcastle United FC striker marked his England debut with a goal in a 2-0 victory over France.
In Italy, Giuseppe Meazza - the man who gave his name to Inter's ground - began his time in Milan with two goals for the Nerazzurri in a 6-1 win against Dominante Ge in 1927. He went on to play 408 matches for Inter, scoring 287 goals, and won the Serie A title twice. Inter's latest striker, Christian Vieri, signalled his intentions with a hat-trick against AC Chievo Verona in Inter's 3-0 win in August 1999 and has not looked back.
Money well spent
Should Ronaldo repeat the feats in Madrid of some of these great club servants, the European champions will feel it has been €45m well spent.
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