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How Real Madrid made a goalscorer of Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo was 24 when he left Manchester United for Real Madrid in 2009; UEFA.com compares and contrasts his goalscoring statistics since that move from Old Trafford.

Cristiano Ronaldo's goalscoring record at Real Madrid is stunning
Cristiano Ronaldo's goalscoring record at Real Madrid is stunning ©Getty Images

After learning who Cristiano Ronaldo's favourite opponents have been in UEFA club competition, UEFA.com broke down the statistics to discover the profound upturn in the Portuguese forward's goalscoring fortunes since his 2009 switch to Spain.

• Ronaldo averaged a goal every 290 minutes and 30 seconds in European matches before he went to the Santiago Bernabéu aged 24; subsequently, he has managed a goal every 85 minutes and 11 seconds – more than one a game.

• Ronaldo has faced 32 teams in Europe with Real Madrid, failing to score against only four: Barcelona, Dinamo Zagreb, Legia Warszawa and Napoli. By contrast, he found the net against just ten of the 25 sides he met with Sporting CP and United.

Who has Ronaldo scored against with Real Madrid?

Opponents
by club
GamesMinutesGoalsMinutes
per goal
AC Milan21801180m
Ajax5450764m17s
APOEL4360660m
Atlético66004150m
Auxerre21621162m
Barcelona2180--
Basel2180290m
Bayern2763984m47s
CSKA Moskva2180360m
Dinamo Zagreb190--
Dortmund98007114m17s
Galatasaray3270645m
Juventus76301063m
København    2180360m
Legia2180--
Liverpool32551255m
Ludogorets2180290m
Lyon65243174m40s
Malmö2180630m
Man. City32701270m
Man. United3187293m30s
Marseille2160440m
Napoli2180--
Paris43603120m
Roma2179289m30s
Schalke4360751m26s
Sevilla190245m
Shakhtar2180536m
Sporting CP21801180m
Tottenham4335483m45s
Wolfsburg2180360m
Zürich2110255m
TOTAL103911510785m11s

How Ronaldo came into his own at Real Madrid

Ronaldo bagged 33 goals in all competitions in his first season at Real Madrid – 2009/10 – before the subsequent arrival of coach José Mourinho brought an steeper rise in his striking figures: he hit over 50 goals (on all fronts) in each of the next six seasons, then dipped to 42 in 2016/17.

Mourinho created a bespoke role for Ronaldo, enabling him to stay on his prefered left wing but with licence to go for goal. "Is he a forward?" the coach mused in 2011. "I do not think he is. I think [his game] is one-on-one against a rival. Is he a winger? No, because he is also a goalscorer and when you are a winger, how many goals do you score in a season; half a dozen? I think he is the mixture of two things. He has everything."

Encouraged to focus on finishing, Ronaldo blossomed into the ultimate match winner – a status he retains at 33. "He knows he can't go up and down all the time now," former United team-mate Gary Neville said. "He knows he can't go past players all the time. He'll become a goalscorer, a poacher and a good one."

How long can he go on? Ronaldo's doctor José Carlos Noronha said: "He has a unique physique and is like those cars that can travel millions of kilometres without any fault." Expect him to keep scoring well into his mid-30s.

Who did Ronaldo score against with Sporting CP and Manchester United?

Opponents
by club
GamesMinutesGoalsMinutes
per goal
Aalborg190--
AC Milan43331333m
Arsenal2180290m
Barcelona3270--
Benfica4337--
Celtic3262--
Chelsea11201120m
Debrecen21571157m
Dinamo Bucureşti164--
Dynamo Kyiv2180360m
Fenerbahçe190--
Internazionale32121212m
København2180--
LOSC Lille4320--
Lyon43601360m
Napoli2180--
Panathinaikos190--
Partizan2118--
Porto42011201m
Rangers190--
Roma43603120m
Sparta Praha279--
Sporting CP2177288m30s
Stuttgart190--
Villarreal4288--
TOTAL58464816290m30s

How Ronaldo was transformed at Manchester United

Signed from Sporting CP as a terrifyingly skilful teenager, Ronaldo dazzled on his August 2003 debut against Bolton in the Premier League, his quick feet and step-overs the talk of Old Trafford. However, as he established himself as a winger, Sir Alex Ferguson and his staff were eager to develop him as a team player.

Ronaldo celebrates #UCL triumph in 2008
Ronaldo celebrates #UCL triumph in 2008©Getty Images

The trickery was toned down, and he was urged to drift infield and finish – rather than cross – as time went by. Work was also done to toughen him up. "Members of the coaching staff were encouraged to turn a blind eye if they saw Ronaldo being fouled in practice matches or small-sided games," coach Tony Coton recalled of the player's early years at United in his autobiography, There To Be Shot At.

"When a free-kick was not forthcoming, he'd throw his hands up in outrage and sit on the turf muttering Portuguese curses while the game continued around him. Toughened pros like Roy Keane, Rio Ferdinand would lambast him for being soft. It was tough love and slowly but surely, the message began to seep into our winger's consciousness."

Ronaldo also put in a huge effort in the gym, building his strength, and Gary Neville remembers his amazement at seeing Ronaldo upon his return from the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany.

"He walked into the dressing room and I thought: 'Jeez, what's happened to him over the summer?'," he wrote. "When he had come to the club he was this thin, wiry boy. Now he was a light-heavyweight. He'd been on the weights over the summer and it was like watching someone grow up in a matter of weeks."

All his coaches at Old Trafford attest to Ronaldo's phenomenal dedication to improving himself, with Sir Alex happy to give the player credit. "Ronaldo is a perfect example of someone who made himself," he said. "It's easy for me to say: 'Yeah, I made Ronaldo.' Many coaches might say I made this player and I made that player, but Ronaldo made himself."