Real Madrid and Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo.
If not for Lionel Messi, we would almost certainly be talking about Cristiano Ronaldo as the best player in the world, and one of the best forwards of all time.
The Portuguese super star started his career at Sporting Lisbon, and impressed Sir Alex Ferguson in a pre-season friendly against Manchester United, leading the club to sign him shortly afterwards for just over £12million. He initially failed to impress at Old Trafford, looking like little more than a tricky winger with some impressive skills but no end product. However, in his second and third seasons he became more consistent, and his influence grew as the United team around him improved, scoring 23 goals as the Red Devils won the title in 2006/07.
His best season in a United shirt was certainly 2007/08, when he played a slightly different role in the team, drifting in from the wing to play almost as the main striker, scoring an incredible 42 goals in all competitions, many being excellent long range shots from free-kicks. His fine form helped United retain their title and also win the Champions League, with Ronaldo scoring in the final against Chelsea.
Ronaldo’s form saw him linked with Real Madrid, but he remained at Old Trafford for one more year, scoring a further 26 goals as Ferguson’s team won a third title in a row, though they were beaten by Barcelona in the Champions League final in Rome.
It was that summer that Ronaldo became the most expensive player of all time, joining Real Madrid for an incredible £80million. He spoke at the time of his pride at being the most expensive player ever, and he has lived up to the expecation at the Bernabeu. Four years on, the 28-year-old has taken his game to a whole new level, and has 201 goals in 199 appearances for the club, a sensational record. His knack for being in the right place at the right time is uncanny, and when he can fire in his incredible long range shots, he’s almost impossible to defend against which ever part of the pitch he’s on.
Unfortunately, his incredible displays have not brought as much success as he’d have hoped, with only one La Liga title in his four seasons in Spain. He is now rumoured to be unhappy at the club and could become the most expensive player in the world once again with offers likely to come in from Manchester United, PSG and Monaco, possibly as high as £85million.
A return to the Premier League would be fantastic, but it remains to be seen if United can afford him now, with his world class status higher than ever. Still, he is sure to keep firing in the goals at this phenomenal rate and continue proving himself to be at least the second best player in the world.