How Real Madrid made a goalscorer of Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo was 24 when he left Manchester United for Real Madrid in 2009; 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, 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?

by club
Games Minutes Goals Minutes
per goal
AC Milan 2 180 1 180m
Ajax 5 450 7 64m17s
APOEL 4 360 6 60m
Atlético 6 600 4 150m
Auxerre 2 162 1 162m
Barcelona 2 180 - -
Basel 2 180 2 90m
Bayern 2 763 9 84m47s
CSKA Moskva 2 180 3 60m
Dinamo Zagreb 1 90 - -
Dortmund 9 800 7 114m17s
Galatasaray 3 270 6 45m
Juventus 7 630 10 63m
København     2 180 3 60m
Legia 2 180 - -
Liverpool 3 255 1 255m
Ludogorets 2 180 2 90m
Lyon 6 524 3 174m40s
Malmö 2 180 6 30m
Man. City 3 270 1 270m
Man. United 3 187 2 93m30s
Marseille 2 160 4 40m
Napoli 2 180 - -
Paris 4 360 3 120m
Roma 2 179 2 89m30s
Schalke 4 360 7 51m26s
Sevilla 1 90 2 45m
Shakhtar 2 180 5 36m
Sporting CP 2 180 1 180m
Tottenham 4 335 4 83m45s
Wolfsburg 2 180 3 60m
Zürich 2 110 2 55m
TOTAL 103 9115 107 85m11s

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?

by club
Games Minutes Goals Minutes
per goal
Aalborg 1 90 - -
AC Milan 4 333 1 333m
Arsenal 2 180 2 90m
Barcelona 3 270 - -
Benfica 4 337 - -
Celtic 3 262 - -
Chelsea 1 120 1 120m
Debrecen 2 157 1 157m
Dinamo Bucureşti 1 64 - -
Dynamo Kyiv 2 180 3 60m
Fenerbahçe 1 90 - -
Internazionale 3 212 1 212m
København 2 180 - -
LOSC Lille 4 320 - -
Lyon 4 360 1 360m
Napoli 2 180 - -
Panathinaikos 1 90 - -
Partizan 2 118 - -
Porto 4 201 1 201m
Rangers 1 90 - -
Roma 4 360 3 120m
Sparta Praha 2 79 - -
Sporting CP 2 177 2 88m30s
Stuttgart 1 90 - -
Villarreal 4 288 - -
TOTAL 58 4648 16 290m30s

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."