Love him or hate him, it’s impossible to ignore Cristiano Ronaldo.
He grabbed a hat-trick – and the headlines – in Real Madrid’s first leg 3-0 victory over rivals Atletico in the Champions League semi-final.
A final in Cardiff awaits the winner and while the tie may not be over yet, Real are in a great position. As of 3rd May, they’re the 8/11 odds to retain their crown according to Betway Sports, partly thanks to CR7’s heroics at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Win this, and it will be Ronaldo’s fourth winner’s medal and while it may not aid his pursuit of becoming the greatest player to play the game, it would put him in contention of becoming the best player in the history of the European Cup.
Since its foundation in 1955, the European Cup or UEFA Champions League has been synonymous with one club above all other: Real Madrid.
Thanks to Di Stefano and Puskas et al, Real won the first five initiations of the competition. That remarkable run of success was followed by a further six titles making Madrid by far the most successful club.
The early success of Real Madrid has somewhat skewed the statistics on the European Cup’s most successful players.
A group of core personalities including Di Stefano and Francisco Gento were in the squad for all five tournaments and in the latter’s case, even played in Real’s 1966 win.
By comparison, Cristiano Ronaldo’s three Champions League winner’s medals don’t look quite as impressive but in some ways, they are more so.
The Portuguese star’s first medal came with Manchester United way back in 2008.
Three English sides made the semi-finals that season but it was United who triumphed in Moscow with Ronaldo grabbing his side’s only goal in the 1-1 draw.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s men eventually won it on penalties and with eight goals in the competition, Ronaldo was the top scorer and one of the main reasons they made it to the final.
But that wasn’t the only time Ronaldo was the top scorer in the Champions League.
The Portuguese star has got more goals than anyone on five occasions, including the last four consecutive seasons.
Ronaldo’s goalscoring exploits have also created another piece of history. The final piece of his hat trick against Bayern Munich in the quarters was the Madrid man’s 100th in the Champions League, making him the first player to reach that figure.
Ronaldo has scored an incredible 72 Champions League goals in the last six seasons alone.
To put that into scale, behind Ronaldo and Messi, Raul is the third top scorer in Champions League history and the Spaniard only got 71 in his entire 21-year career.
One man who hasn’t quite reached that total but surely will is Lionel Messi.
Comparisons will always be made between the pair and Leo Messi has won four Champions League titles with FC Barcleona alongside teammates Xavi and Andres Iniesta.
It must be noted that all three players were part of a Barcelona side which not only dominated Spain, but also Europe under Pep Guardiola.
Ronaldo has never been a part of such a team and has instead had to rely upon himself.
Real Madrid may have been the most successful side in the Champions League in recent years but they are by no means the top dogs in La Liga.
Los Blancos may be four wins away from the title this season but have won La Liga just once in the last eight years.
The fact is, Ronaldo has never been a part of a side which has dominated Europe in the way that FC Barcelona has in recent years or clubs like AC Milan, Liverpool, Ajax, or even 1950s Real Madrid have in the past.
Many of Cristiano Ronaldo’s achievements in the Champions League are unrivalled.
He almost singlehandedly dragged Real Madrid to two victories in three years and success over Atletico Madrid this evening will go a long way to giving him his fourth winner’s medal.
Another title may not help his case for being called the best to play the game but if he does get it then Cristiano Ronaldo is definitely one of, if not the greatest player in the history of the Champions League.