The race was won, but not Madrid hearts

Real’s great­est scorer can’t live with Raul and Di Ste­fano

Sport360 - - News - Matthew Jones b @Mat­tJones360 * mat­tjones@sport360.com

Al­fredo Di Ste­fano, Ferenc Puskas, Raul, Iker Casil­las, Fer­nando Hierro, Ser­gio Ramos, Michel – some of the great­est to wear the fa­mous white of Real Madrid so well.

It’s a daz­zling ar­ray of names, some of the best to ever play the game let alone for the club.

Cristiano Ron­aldo sits above them all as Los Blan­cos great­est ever goalscorer. But he is per­haps un­likely to ever sur­pass Raul or Di Ste­fano as the club’s best ever.

The Por­tuguese pow­er­house brought the cur­tain down on a quite sub­lime nine-year stay on the San­ti­ago Bern­abeu stage on Tues­day as he turned his at­ten­tion to Turin.

De­bate has long raged among Madridis­tas as to who is Madrid’s great­est player. In terms of goals, Ron­aldo stands alone, with 450 mer­ci­lessly plun­dered since he was plucked from the Premier League in 2009. Yet, some say a lack of emo­tional bond be­tween the Bern­abeu faith­ful and their white knight leaves an in­vis­i­ble yet un­bridge­able gap sep­a­rat­ing fan and phe­nom.

Ron­aldo leaves Spain as Real’s great­est ever goalscorer. A club that has had its fair share of pro­lific ones. Of the six play­ers to score more than 200 goals, Ron­aldo’s record is whiter than white.

His 450 strikes in just 438 games means he scored at a rate of 1.02 per game. Only Hun­gar­ian heavy­weight Puskas comes close with his 242 in 262 games, scored at a seis­mic rate of 0.92. Di Ste­fano’s 307 in 396 out­ings (0.77), Hugo Sanchez’s 208 in 282 (0.73), San­til­lana’s 289 in 645 (0.44), even Bern­abeu boy won­der Raul’s 323 in 741 (0.43), pale in sig­nif­i­cance.

The goals scored by the other five to­tals 1,369. Ron­aldo’s tally is 33 per cent of that. He fin­ishes with 127 more than Raul (323), hav­ing played 303 less games. And only Puskas spent less time at the club.

Ron­aldo sur­passed Raul nearly three years ago. He went on to rip­ple the net an­other 126 times to set a record that even at a club more fa­mous than any for es­tab­lish­ing and pass­ing mile­stones, some­one will find it im­pos­si­ble to break.

It is his ev­er­last­ing duel with arch neme­sis Lionel Messi though that both sets him apart yet also pre­vents Madrid fans from truly em­brac­ing him. The duo have held a du­op­oly on the Balon d’Or for the last decade. In the midst of their bril­liance and dom­i­nance, how­ever, bore­dom has crept in. After all, is em­pa­thy in foot­ball not a cru­cial, the most cru­cial, el­e­ment?

There’s no in­tel­li­gi­ble rea­son mega rich stars earn­ing strato­spheric sums of money and the every­day man out­side the sta­dium should be able to co-ex­ist. Yet, some­how, they are part­ners in a strange sort of mar­riage that evokes strong sen­ti­ment and suf­fer­ing in equal mea­sure.

In Ron­aldo’s un­quench­able thirst for goals and to be the great­est player that ever lived, some­thing has been miss­ing from so­lid­i­fy­ing the bond be­tween him and Real fans.

Mean­while, Raul’s emo­tional at­tach­ment with the fans, cou­pled with the de­ci­sive goals scored, launched him into their hearts as well as the record books.

Like Ron­aldo he came from hum­ble be­gin­nings. Shy and an in­tro­vert at heart – the very an­tithe­sis of Ron­aldo – led to an in­cred­i­bly strong emo­tional link with sup­port­ers.

The fact he was Span­ish and a lo­cal boy meant even more to them and his nick­names say ev­ery­thing about his stand­ing at the Bern­abeu. ‘Mis­ter Raul Madrid’, ‘El Cap­i­tan’.

His emer­gence dur­ing the 1994/95 sea­son was sym­bolic in many ways. Not only was he the youngest player to make his se­nior de­but – aged 17 years and 124 days – but re­plac­ing Emilio Bu­tragueno sig­naled a pass­ing of the torch from one leg­end to some­one des­tined to fol­low. Nine goals were reg­is­tered in 28 ap­pear­ances to help Madrid lift the ti­tle in his first sea­son. It broke Barcelona’s four-year mo­nop­oly on the do­mes­tic cham­pi­onship.

He scored in the Cham­pi­ons League fi­nals of 2000 and 2002, be­com­ing the first player to net in two, as Real re­turned to promi­nence both at home and on the con­ti­nent.

He is seen by many as Madrid’s sec­ond son, only to Di Ste­fano, who is held in such re­gard be­cause he was the first true Madrid ma­gi­cian. He was by no means the last, but he was that true break­out star.

He laid the foun­da­tions for the be­he­moth of a club they have be­come to­day.

Di Ste­fano’s leg­endary con­tri­bu­tions to Madrid’s early suc­cesses in­cluded seven Euro­pean Cup fi­nal goals across five con­sec­u­tive fi­nals as Los Blan­cos white­washed the in­au­gu­ral years of the com­pe­ti­tion, hoist­ing the first five tro­phies from 1956-60.

Like Ron­aldo he was some­thing of an out­sider, an Ar­gen­tine. But after win­ning six caps for La Al­bice­leste in 1947, the Buenos Aires­born for­ward switched al­le­giance to Spain in 1956 – three years after join­ing Real – and would go on to ri­fle in 23 goals for La Roja in 31 caps, in­clud­ing a hat-trick on de­but.

Heavy heart: Cristiano Ron­aldo plun­dered goals for Madrid, but will not go down as the great­est.

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