Cristiano Ronaldo’s Twitter might not be the close-up look at the life of the Real Madrid superstar that fans want, but a tweet this morning showed a rare moment of raw emotion away from the selfies, six-packs and shameless plugs for the numerous big brands he endorses.
The Portugal forward returns to the Champions League stage for the first time tonight since once again being the hero in May’s final against Atletico Madrid, which itself came two years after he stole the show against the same opponents with a win in, of all places, Lisbon.
Given his history in this competition, it’s little surprise to see genuine joy at the return of Champions League football to the Bernabeu for the visit of his first club Sporting Lisbon this evening.
In fact, as the 31-year-old prepares for his 128th game at Europe’s top table, he enters a campaign in which he could truly establish himself as perhaps the tournament’s greatest ever player, if he isn’t there already.
His long-time nemesis Lionel Messi set the tone with a stunning display and a hat-trick for Barcelona as they steamrollered Celtic last night, but a quick look at Ronaldo’s records in the Champions League suggest he’s already ahead of the Argentine when it comes to the bright lights of the Champions League.
Here’s a look at why Ronaldo may already be the best Champions League player of all time…
He’s the all-time leading scorer!
With 94 goals in 131 games, Ronaldo is currently ahead of Messi in the all-time Champions League scoring charts, and one feels he won’t let his position at the top slip easily.
CL TOP SCORERS:
Cristiano Ronaldo 94
Lionel Messi 86
Ruud van Nistelrooy 56
Thierry Henry 50
He’s been top scorer five times!
Level with Messi here, Ronaldo has finished as the top scorer in a Champions League season on five occasions.
It probably won’t surprise you that no other player has managed to match the pair on this feat.
CL top scoreres, by season:
2007/08 – Ronaldo (8)
2008/09 – Messi (9)
2009/10 – Messi (8)
2010/11 – Messi (12)
2011/12 – Messi (14)
2012/13 – Ronaldo (12)
2013/14 – Ronaldo (17)
2014/15 – Ronaldo, Messi, Neymar (10)
2015/16 – Ronaldo (16)
He’s scored the most goals in a single campaign!
His 2013/4 tally of 17 goals in a single Champions League season is a record, and it included a goal in the final and a brace in the semi-final.
He’s scored five CL hat-tricks!
As of last night, he’s now second to Messi (6) on this, but the way these two are going you wouldn’t bet against the Barca man only being ahead for one evening.
Also, to get one over his old rival, he’s the only player to manage three hat-tricks in a single Champions League campaign, doing so last season on his way to picking up the trophy for the third time in his career.
He has the most goals in the group stage!
Last season he managed an incredible 11 goals in just six group games.
Ronaldo 2015/16 group stage goals:
3 vs Shakhtar Donetsk (H)
2 vs Malmo (A)
2 vs Shakhtar Donetsk (A)
4 vs Malmo (H)
And the knockout stage
He’s scored 44 in Champions League knockout games in total, including two in three final appearances for both Manchester United and Real Madrid.
He’s second for assists!
He’s not far behind Ryan Giggs here and you’d definitely fancy him to overtake his fellow United legend before long.
Most CL ASSISTS:
Ryan Giggs 30
Cristiano Ronaldo 26
Lionel Messi, Zlatan Ibrahimovic 22
Mesut Ozil 19
Karim Benzema, Frank Lampard, Thierry Henry 18
Only scorer for two different winners
Somewhat surprisingly, Ronaldo is the only player to score for two winning teams in Champions League finals!
While a number of players have won it for more than one team, or scored in more than one final, Ronaldo is unique in managing to both score and win for Manchester United in 2008, and Real Madrid in 2014.
No wonder he’s excited to get going again today.