Chronology of Cristiano Ronaldo Told Through His Goal Celebrations
Around world football, several regular goalscorers opt for a trademark celebration of their own. A few might even plan or rehearse them with a team-mate, while in certain memorable circumstances, a spur-of-the-moment celebration might become iconic due to its timing, humour or individualism.
But when you score as many times as Cristiano Ronaldo does, a bit of each is a natural occurrence along the way.
Five goals for Sporting CP, over 100 for Manchester United, a national-team record of 71 for Portugal and an astonishing haul of 400 for Real Madrid, Ronaldo is a man with a moment of magic for every occasion.
He was at it again in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final on Tuesday, netting a close-range header, a stunning drive and a neat finish to sink Atletico Madrid—each greeted with a different celebration.
Here we chart his rise through the footballing world, as marked by his goal celebrations along the way.
On more than one occasion, the Real Madrid No. 7 has celebrated by whipping off his jersey to reveal the machinery behind his incredible consistency.
A goal in the 2014 Champions League final (pictured) was perhaps the most memorable example of this celebration. It was hardly a new move for Ronaldo, who stripped off his jersey after scoring his first goal as a professional player, for Sporting in 2002.
Of course, there was a slight difference; not yet the toned and sculptured figure he would later become, a somewhat skinnier Ronaldo wore a vest under his jersey then rather than purposely displaying his physique to the masses.
Point the Way
Moving to Manchester United was, in time, like lighter fuel to Ronaldo's jet-engine potential.
He enraged fans and opponents alike in his early days with needless stepovers, pointless individual skill which got him nowhere and a dreadful lack of end product as a winger—but Alex Ferguson wasn't a managerial master for no reason.
Ronaldo's boss cajoled and moulded his starlet into one of the Premier League's most devastating wide forwards after swapping him from right to left, and the goals flowed increasingly quickly.
The raised arm, pointing to the stands, became a familiar sight as Ronaldo spent more time in England, though it was far from his most enigmatic celebration.
Arms Wide (Manchester United)
From four and five Premier League goals in his first two seasons in the north-west of England, Ronaldo hit 31 in his penultimate campaign.
Perhaps symbolically, as he became more sure of his self-worth and more assured of his role in the team, his goal celebrations became correspondingly more forceful and noticeable.
Taking off with arms wide—encouraging the adulation of the fanbase—was a popular sight at Old Trafford towards the end of the forward's time at Old Trafford...
Arms Wide (Real Madrid)
...and it continued into his early days at Real Madrid.
It's one thing to be a great player with a big price tag at one of the world's largest clubs, but quite another to live up to the billing on a weekly basis.
Ronaldo did it and then some, though. He didn't just earn his place among the team's superstars, he proved good enough to have the entire side built around him. This allowed him to excel, providing the platform for his goalscoring to become not just regular but legendary.
The then-No. 9 averaged 0.94 goals per game in his first season at the Santiago Bernabeu, in all competitions. Incredibly, that's the worst it has been in any of his seven full years at the club.
The eighth—the current campaign—might just end up lower, but there have been a huge volume of goals scored in between.
A natural progression for goalscorers and their celebrations seems to be increasingly towards a pre-planned act or routine with a team-mate.
For Ronaldo, Marcelo quickly became the player of choice.
The duo have operated in tandem down the left side of the pitch at Madrid, with the Brazilian in defence and Ronaldo in the front line, and thus their play has often linked up or overlapped with one's movement being in sync with the other.
A few celebrations saw them celebrate together in style, from a dance-off style to handshakes and a mid-air jump collision.
Ronaldo has also made his presence felt on the international stage.
He's Portugal's captain, Portugal's record goalscorer and Portugal's record appearance holder—none of those records are likely to fall any time soon.
Naturally, his ongoing impact for his nation and importance to the team lends itself to Ronaldo playing a vital role in goalscoring, especially in big matches. And his celebration of pointing to himself—often while appearing to shout at the crowd—is a familiar sight.
It's 71 goals and counting for his country, comfortably the highest scorer of any still-active international player, and he no doubt has a few more milestones to go.
For a player hellbent on writing his name into the record books, it's worth noting that 80 will make him the joint-third highest of all time for any nation, 85 puts him second above the great Ferenc Puskas and 110 will take him outright first, above Ali Daei of Iran.
Back to the club scene and the pointing-at-himself celebration isn't merely reserved for Portugal.
Ronaldo's greatness down the years has been accompanied often by an expectation of putting in a world-class performance all the time, and when it doesn't happen, the fans are all too happy to berate, whistle or jeer him.
That can come from either set of fans, home or away, and the next inevitable Ronaldo goal can see him quickly remind those jeering supporters of just who they're dealing with.
In unsavoury fashion for some, that can also be aimed at either fans of Los Blancos or their rivals. Either way, Ronaldo wants them to realise he remains the great one.
An alternative to pointing at himself, but essentially with the same meaning, has been for Ronaldo to cup an ear to the fans who had been jeering him.
Squeezy Does It
One of Ronaldo's most repeated celebrations for a couple of seasons, he would look up to the stands and raise his arms, squeezing his hands together in a grabbing motion.
There were plenty of theories circulating as to the meaning—from the bizarre to the somewhat unimaginative—but the "claw" gesture appeared to be related to his son's birth and habits in his early years.
Ronaldo confirmed the reason, if not the meaning, on Twitter.
As relevant to his image as the regular celebrations have become, there's something inherently Ronaldo about a one-off celebration, too, particularly in a big game.
At the Camp Nou, and on more than one occasion, Ronaldo has signed off a goal by shushing the crowd—in a far more subtle, and yet surprisingly antagonistic way—than merely putting a finger to his lips.
Conceding a goal to the No. 7 has been met in recent seasons by the forward telling the Barcelona crowd to calm down, both palms pushing down towards the ground in a clear message: lower your expectations, lower your cheering, lower everything.
It's not just Barcelona, though.
Atletico Madrid also came in for some special treatment in November, with the final La Liga Madrid derby at the Vicente Calderon Stadium marked by the forward's hat-trick.
The devastating performance was perhaps his best up to that point as a sole striker, and his treble was met by a somewhat iconic celebration: on his haunches, staring directly into a camera, with his hand on his chin.
It was replicated and taunted online, but he made his point on the day.
Ronaldo's signature celebration of the modern age; the storming jump, turn and landing in spread-eagled fashion sums him up for some—it's all about the power, imagery and ego which repetition provides.
And, of course, the volume of goals Ronaldo scores offers the chance for repetition aplenty.
Whether doing it solo, with a team-mate joining in, at pace or just as a couple of steps and pivot, it's the Ronaldo celebration and everybody knows it.
Superhuman though his endeavours on the pitch may seem, Ronaldo is still human and reacts as naturally as the rest of us from time to time.
His recent hat-trick in the Champions League against Bayern Munich showcased as much; an important game, an incredible contribution and a landmark occasion saw the No. 7 simply celebrate with genuine emotion.
A perfect treble—right foot, left foot, head—and a 100th goal in Champions League matches was met with the celebration that anybody else would resort to: a beaming face, running off to join team-mates and enjoying the adulation of the crowd.
The one tiny caveat is that not everybody else might get to celebrate such a moment—Ronaldo is the only one who has.
Take a Seat
Not done with one hat-trick in the Champions League knockout stages, Ronaldo repeated the feat against Atletico in the first leg of the semi-finals.
A close-range header, stunning 18-yard strike and neat finish set his side on course for a third final in the past four years.
All were greeted with a different celebration, the highlight being a seated pose – primed for the snappers to capture Ronaldo in all his majesty.
It was a performance to take the breath away and we expect many more to come.