Cristiano Ronaldo has broken Jimmy Greaves’ all time record for the most amount of goals in Europe’s top five leagues. Ronaldo’s two goals in Real Madrid’s 4-1 win at Celta Vigo yesterday, push him ahead of Greaves onto 368 goals. Impressively, Ronaldo has achieved his tally in 68 games fewer than Greaves, taking just 460 matches, compared to Greaves’ 528.
There is a general consensus that the top five European leagues are the top divisions in England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. Ronaldo, like Greaves has played in two of these, his career split between England and Spain, whilst the majority of Greaves’ career was spent in his native England, with half a season in Italy.
Players to score 250 goals in Europe’s top five leagues
There are only 19 players in the exclusive club of players to score 250 goals in Europe’s main five leagues, some players are from before you were born, but if you want to have a stab at naming the 19, try our Sporcle quiz below. The answers are in the other tabs, so only click onto the graph or list if you want spoilers!
Europe’s 250 goals club – analysis
Cristiano Ronaldo’s Career
|Manchester United Total||196||84||0.43|
|Real Madrid Total||264||284||1.08|
Cristiano Ronaldo’s Career Summary
Ronaldo managed a slightly higher five league goals in his second season in English football, not yet showing the signs that he was going to destroy the goalscoring records throughout Europe. The next few seasons saw Ronaldo’s goal tally grow and grow. His figures for a season nearly doubled with every campaign. Five goals became nine, and in 2006/07 he scored 17 and was United’s top Premier League goalscorer. However it was the 2007/08 campaign where Ronaldo had his first true blockbuster scoring season, as he scored 31 league goals. This was a joint Premier League record for the most goals in a 38 game season, equalling Alan Shearer from 1995/96 (and has since been matched by Luis Suarez in 2013/14). Ronaldo’s last season in England, 2008/09, produced what would now seem a disappointing 18 league goals, taking his Premier League total to 84 goals.
Real Madrid signed Ronaldo in the summer of 2009 for a then world record transfer fee of £80m. Having played mainly as a winger during his time in England, he was more of a central player by the time he started his career in Madrid. On his Real debut, Ronaldo scored a penalty in a 3-2 home win over Deportivo La Coruna. His first season in Spain yielded 26 league goals, although he missed several games through injury.
Ronaldo was by now fully settled into Spain, and in 2010/11 became the first man in La Liga history to score 40 goals in a single season. He was forced onto a higher level by his great rival, Barcelona’s Lionel Messi the following season. Both players obliterated the record 40, as Messi scored 50, with Ronaldo just behind on 46. The next two campaigns saw the heat dropped a little, as Ronaldo scored 34 and then 31 La Liga goals over the next two seasons. This meant Ronaldo was over the 250 mark for European league goals before the end of the 2013/14 campaign. He cleared the 300 milestone by the end the next season, with his best season to date – 48 league goals. Ronaldo’s 35 goals in 2015/16 left him within striking distance of Greaves’ record for some point during this season.
His 2016/17 campaign is so far his worst in Spain, with Ronaldo almost certainly not going to reach 30 league goals, with just one game to go in the season. This will be the first time since his first season in Spain that he has not broken the 30 barrier. However, following yesterdays game he is on 24 La Liga goals for the season, a total many other strikers dream of, yet only half that of what Ronaldo achieved himself just two season previous.
Jimmy Greaves’ Career
|West Ham United||6||4||0.67|
|1970/71||West Ham United||32||9||0.28|
|A.C. Milan Total||12||9||0.75|
|Tottenham Hotspur Total||321||220||0.69|
|West Ham United Total||38||13||0.34|
Jimmy Greaves’ Career Summary
Italian giants A.C. Milan got Greaves’ signature for £80,000 in the summer of 1961. Greaves changed his mind about leaving London and tried to cancel the move, but the Serie A side did not allow the deal to be annulled. Greaves scored nine goals in 12 league games in red and black before a disagreement with his manager led to a return to London, with reigning double holders Tottenham Hotspur. He joined Spurs in December 1961 for £99,999, as manager Bill Nicholson wanted to keep the pressure off Greaves, and not make him the first £100k player in British football. Greaves was quickly up to speed, scoring a hat-trick on his Tottenham debut and still managed to break the 20 barrier for First Division goals.
Greaves was the First Division’s outright top scorer in his first two full seasons with Spurs, and was join top scorer in his third. He missed the first few months of the 1965/66 season with illness which explains his first season with less than 20 league goals. Three more seasons of 20 topping tallies were to follow, culminating in a fifth outright top scorer accolade in 1969 – ten years after his first.
Greaves fell out of form and favour in 1970 and was allowed to join West Ham United where he closed out the final 14 months of his career with 13 league goals, citing motivation as the key factor in his retirement at 31. Unlike Ronaldo, Greaves career was surprisingly trophy bare, he never won a league title (although A.C. Milan did win the league the season he played the first three months of). Greaves has just a couple of FA Cup winners medals and was a non-playing member of England’s 1966 World Cup final squad to show for all his goals.
Ronaldo and Greaves, different players from different eras
Jimmy Greaves and Cristiano Ronaldo cumulative career goals
The Englishman’s strike rates tended to get progressively worse throughout his career, with Ronaldo doing the opposite and improving. Ronaldo has impressively scored more goals than games played in his eight seasons with Real Madrid. You can break this down into four seasons where he has bettered a goal-a-game ratio, whilst Greaves only achieved this feat once in his career. Greaves does hold more top marksmen awards, five and one shared to Ronaldo’s four, however you could argue that the Portuguese maestro would have more, if it were not for him constantly competing against another goalscoring legend in Lionel Messi.
It has to be said, that Greaves’ record has been in danger for some time now, and not just from Ronaldo, but from Messi as well. Ronaldo’s feat is even more impressive given that the era he is playing in has far less goals per game, than the net-busting 50s and 60s of Greaves day. The average goals per game across Greaves’ playing career is 3.16, whilst Ronaldo’s is 2.68. To put that simpler, Ronaldo is playing in leagues with half a goal less per game than Greaves did. With the Portuguese star only 32 and still comfortably scoring 20 goals a season for arguably the best side in Europe, it just leaves wonder how high he will push his total before he calls it a day.