It’s surely only a matter of time before Cristiano Ronaldo becomes football’s highest goal scorer.
The Juventus forward equalled Josef Bican’s long-standing historical record (759) this weekend, netting in injury time of the Bianconeri’s 3-1 win over Sassuolo.
Ronaldo has been lethal in front of goal in 2020/21, averaging more than a goal per game with 15 in 13 appearances.
When the 35-year-old overtakes Bican, football fans will finally be able to agree that he’s the greatest goalscorer of all time. We’re just kidding, of course.
Some will still need to be convinced that his exploits really have seen him eclipse the likes of Bican, Pele and Lionel Messi.
There are debates had about major honours won, technical ability and sheer natural talent, but there’s one surefire way to measure some of the game’s great attackers – and that’s by numbers.
When you consider the quality of the leagues Ronaldo has played in, it’s understandable that it’s taken him a (still mightily impressive) total of 1037 games to match Bican.
Bican, of course, played between 1931-1955. His most prolific spell was with Slavia Prague, for whom he scored 403 in 211 matches.
There are very few fans today who will remember him, but we can get a good sense of Ronaldo’s career feats by breaking down his 759 goals so far.
Ronaldo’s goal tally
Sporting CP – 5 (35 appearances)
Manchester United – 118 (292 appearances)
Real Madrid – 451 (438 appearances)
Juventus – 84 (106 appearances)
Portugal – 102 (170 appearances)
Ronaldo vs Bican and Pele
It attracted plenty of attention when Ronaldo recently surpassed Pele’s record of 757 goals by scoring a brace against Udinese.
That was partly because the Brazil legend’s total is so disputed. Well, in fact, so is Bican’s.
The Czech forward scored 805 goals overall, but as Marca point out, some of those weren’t in professional games. So, we’ll minus the goals he scored for regional sides and Rapid Vienna’s reserves. That’s where the number 759 comes from.
Likewise, Romario – another undoubted great – was said to have scored his 1,000th goal in 2007 (at the age of 41) but only 740 of those were officially recorded.
With Ronaldo, there is no possibility of inflating or re-jigging his numbers. The record books are a lot more up-to-date than for some of his predecessors and his career has been followed vigorously.
Ronaldo is yet to win a Serie A Golden Boot, but he is on track this season. Regardless, he has achieved the feat for various clubs on 11 occasions.
1 x Premier League (2007/08)
3 x LaLiga (2010/11, 2013/14 and 2014/15)
7 x Champions League (2007/08, 2012/13, 2013/14, 2014/15, 2015/16, 2016/17 and 2017/18)
Other notable Ronaldo stats
Real Madrid’s all-time leading goalscorer
Leading goalscorer in European Cup history
Most international goals scored in a calendar year: 32
Record goalscorer in the Club World Cup (7)
Most different national teams scored against: 41
Oldest player to score a hat-trick at the World Cup (33 years, 130 days)
Most international hat-tricks (9)
Most goals in a UEFA Champions League season by an individual: 17
Only player to reach 200 career goals in all UEFA senior competitions
One record Ronaldo hasn’t matched
One of the main reasons Ronaldo has matched Bican so quickly is because of his exploits for the Potuguese national team.
Last year, he netted his 100th goal for the 2016 European Championship winners. However, he is not the record goalscorer in international football history. That record belongs to Ali Daei.
Ronaldo needs another seven goals to match the Iranian legend.
…So where does Messi stand?
As much as fans relish comparing Ronaldo to icons of past generations, there’s no getting away from the fact that the eternal question has not changed. Is he better than Lionel Messi?
That debate is far too complex to get into here, but it is worth noting the Argentine’s own numbers.
The Barcelona star is on 718 goals for club and country. There’s still time for him to match Bican and Ronaldo, but he will need to be more clinical than he has been for much of the season so far.