Is Cristiano Ronaldo the Greatest Ever Footballer Who Left the Premier League?

It isn’t that often that I miss a Premier League footballer who decides to ply his trade overseas. But if I had to name one, it would be former Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo.

Now playing his football at Real Madrid, Ronaldo reached a unique milestone Saturday night after he scored his 100th and 101st goals for Real Madrid in 92 games for Los Blancos. The goals helped Ronaldo become the fastest footballer to ever hit 100 goals in the 110-year history of Real Madrid. Quite an accomplishment for an athlete who is still just 27 years old.

Ronaldo is the type of footballer who can be frustrating to watch. He goes in and out of games. At times, his exquisite skill is mind blowing. Other times, particularly in high pressure games such as el Clasico or in international matches for Portugal, he goes missing. But that’s part of the charm about Ronaldo. You never know which CR7 is going to show up. But more times often than not, it’s the explosive version that scores some simply sensational goals.

Just as Sir Alex Ferguson and the Manchester United coaching staff transformed Wayne Rooney from a diamond with rough edges into the finished article, the same happened to Ronaldo. When the Portugese winger joined United from Sporting in 2003, Ronaldo was a showboating punk who could dazzle the crowd with his step-overs, but they would often result in a feeble pass or him losing the ball. Within weeks, Ronaldo dropped his step-overs and replaced them with a more direct and productive style of play that resulted in assists.

While Manchester United profited from the £80 million transfer fee that Real Madrid paid to bring Ronaldo to Spain, Manchester United could still benefit from his services if he was playing for the Red Devils. He’s the type of player who can frustrate defenders with his pace, incredible dribbling, superb passing of the ball and his lethal strikes. If that wasn’t enough, then you have his brilliant free kicks. That is certainly one aspect that Manchester United hasn’t been able to replace since Ronaldo left — a clinical scorer from free kicks.

I would argue that Ronaldo is the greatest ever footballer to have left the Premier League. Of course, many other stars have left the league to play elsewhere — David Beckham, Thierry Henry, Jurgen Klinsmann, Cesc Fabregas and Ruud van Nistelrooy, just to name a few, but none have lived up to the promise and results that Ronaldo has achieved on the world’s stage.

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