It’s hard to feel sympathy for Cristiano Ronaldo. After all, he’s “good-looking, rich and a great soccer player,” as he not-so-sheepishly admitted last September.
But the Real Madrdid superstar has it rough in at least one way. It’s not the money. He’s the third-highest earner in world soccer. It’s not the fame — and the beautiful women that accompany it. He has plenty of that.
For years, Ronaldo has done extraordinary things on the soccer field. He’ll rank among the game’s all-time greats when he is through playing. News of his achievements should be broadcast throughout the cosmos. But he has to share the spotlight, on this earth and in this lifetime, with FC Barcelona star Lionel Messi.
Ronaldo scored twice on Saturday, becoming the fastest player to net 100 goals in La Liga. He hit the century mark in 92 games, surpassing the legendary Real Madrid and Hungary star Ferenc Puskas who did it in 105 games.
His goal tally for this season stands at 35 (in 29 games). Ronaldo is on pace to surpass last season’s record-breaking haul of 40.
Since moving to Spanish soccer in 2009, the 27-year-old has scored at the rate of one goal in every game he plays (131 goals in 131 games in all competitions). To put that in perspective, a goal every two games is target most elite strikers strive to hit.
But Messi has marched alongside Ronaldo every step of the way. Four days before Ronaldo scored his 100th, Messi scored his 233rd career goal and became Barcelona’s all-time leading goal scorer. The two players are deadlocked in a race for the “Pichichi”, which goes to La Liga’s leading scorer. When fans discuss the game’s top players the two are almost always mentioned in the same breath.
Although each can brag about his individual exploits, Ronaldo can only look at Messi’s winners’ medal collection with envy. The Portuguese star has only won the Spanish Cup since joining Real Madrid. Messi has collected two La Ligas, two FIFA Club World Cups and one UEFA Champions League winners’ medal during that same span of time.
Many neutrals prefer Messi because he keeps his emotions in check when he’s on the field. Ronaldo’s history of flailing, complaining and hair gel abuse endeared him to only a small segment of the sporting public.
But it’s doubtful Ronaldo plays to be popular or loved. He plays to win games. The 100 league goals he’s scored has helped Madrid do that more than nearly any other team on the planet in the last few seasons. Unfortunately for him, the only other team that matters is the one on which Messi plays.