THE FIRST – Manchester United 7-1 Roma, 10/04/2007
It took Cristiano Ronaldo 27 games to get off the mark in the competition proper but it was worth the wait. Cutting in from the right, he was invited to shoot by a backtracking Roma defence and did just that, firing a right-footed effort low past goalkeeper Doni. Five minutes later, he scored a second as United ran riot against a team that led the quarter-final 2-1 going into the Old Trafford second leg – he was on his way.
UEFA Champions League all-time leading scorers (excluding qualifying)
Cristiano Ronaldo – 100 (137 games)
Lionel Messi – 94 (114)
Raúl González – 71 (142)
Ruud van Nistelrooy – 56 (73)
Karim Benzema – 51 (91)
Thierry Henry – 50 (112)
THE FINAL – Manchester United 1-1 Chelsea (aet, United win 6-5 on pens), 21/05/2008
Players talk about emotional roller coasters but few have experienced anything like this. The Moscow final was 26 minutes old when Ronaldo dropped off Michael Essien and leapt majestically to head Wes Brown’s cross low into the corner. From that high (literally), he plummeted to the depths of despair when his shoot-out penalty was saved. John Terry’s infamous slip and Edwin van der Sar’s stop from Nicolas Anelka meant all that was soon forgotten. “I missed my penalty and it felt like the worst day of my life. Now it’s the happiest,” said Ronaldo.
THE WONDER GOAL – Porto 0-1 Manchester United, 15/04/2009
Returning to his native Portugal, the spotlight inevitably shone bright on Ronaldo – and how he justified his star billing. With six minutes on the clock he collected the ball in midfield and, from 36.2 metres, let fly a sensational right-footed screamer that arrowed into the very top left corner. “A fantastic goal, the best I have scored,” he said. Porto would have advanced to the last four with an equaliser but, shaken, could not muster one.
THE FREE-KICK – Arsenal 1-3 Manchester United, 05/05/2009
Eighteen months after showcasing his now trademark free-kick against Portsmouth in the Premier League, Ronaldo brought it to a grander stage: the UEFA Champions League semi-finals. As he lined up a set piece wide on the right, a shot looked unlikely but the No7 is always up for a challenge. He struck through the ball, the vicious swerve sending Manuel Almunia one way and then the other – but too late as his drive crept inside the near post.
THE HAT-TRICK – Ajax 1-4 Real Madrid, 03/10/2012
Ronaldo had netted twice on 11 occasions in the UEFA Champions League before finally breaking his hat-trick duck. The first was a predatory effort, the second a curving shot and the third a measured lob – all that was missing from completely exhibiting his repertoire was the free-kick and the prodigious leap plus bullet header.
THE MASTERCLASS – Galatasaray 1-6 Real Madrid, 17/09/2013
Having bagged one UEFA Champions League hat-trick, Ronaldo claimed a second treble 11 months later. A quickfire second-half double was followed by a sublime third as Madrid posted their biggest away triumph in the UEFA Champions League and inflicted Galatasaray’s heaviest home defeat in Europe.
THE DRIBBLE – Schalke 1-6 Real Madrid, 26/02/2014
Preventing the No7 finding the net is no easy task as Joel Matip can testify. Ronaldo tricked his way past the Schalke defender with a series of characteristic stepovers before unleashing a powerful finish into the far corner past Ralf Fährmann as Madrid became the first away side to hit six in the UEFA Champions League knockout phase.
LA DÉCIMA – Real Madrid 4-1 Atlético Madrid (aet), 24/05/2014
Ronaldo fulfilled a dream on home soil in the Lisbon showpiece, and became just the fourth player to register in two UEFA Champions League finals after converting a 120th-minute penalty, as Madrid finally landed their tenth European crown. The forward was brought down by Gabi and got up to score the spot kick – his 17th goal in 11 outings setting a new mark for a single campaign in the competition. He also finished as top marksman for the second term running and third overall.
THE HALF-VOLLEY – Liverpool 0-3 Real Madrid, 22/10/2014
For the ex-Manchester United man, his first strike at Anfield was worth the wait as Ronaldo notched his 70th goal in the UEFA Champions League to silence the home fans. He started the move in midfield, swapping passes with Pepe and Karim Benzema, before finding James Rodríguez. The No10 chipped a ball over the Liverpool defence which Ronaldo reached ahead of Martin Škrtel and dispatched brilliantly on the half-volley.
THE ONE THAT HURT – Real Madrid 2-1 Sporting CP, 14/09/2016
With Ronaldo up against boyhood club Sporting, Madrid were facing the prospect of defeat with the clock ticking down. That was until Ronaldo was felled 20 metres from goal. The talisman dusted himself down and rifled in a perfect free-kick to pull his team back level before Álvaro Morata’s dramatic added-time clincher. “To play against Sporting, where I grew up, was difficult,” said Ronaldo.
AND, AS A BONUS, THE 98TH, 99TH AND 100TH …