Manchester United winger Cristiano Ronaldo is currently taking the Premier League and the football world by storm. The free kick with which he scored his 19th goal of the season on Wednesday against Portsmouth has been hailed by many as the best ever seen.
So is Ronaldo the best player ever to play in the Premier League?
The record of the Portugese star who is still only 22, 23 next week, is certainly impressive. His Opta stats for this season show that he has scored 19 goals from 78 shots. This is both the highest number of goals and shots by any player. He is also top of the dribbling chart with 108 runs to his name.
We tend to forget that when Sir Alex Ferguson brought Ronaldo over to England in 2003, he had only made 25 first team appearances at Sporting Lisbon, scoring 3 goals. His record at Manchester United is 54 goals from 149 games. Remarkable for a player who essentially plays in midfield. He has also scored 20 international goals for Portugal in 53 appearances.
In his short career Ronaldo has won Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup medals. In 2007 he was voted PFA Player of the season, young player of the season and fans player of the season. He was the first player to ever achieve this feat. In the same year he finished second in the Uefa European footballer of the year poll and third in the FIFA world footballer of the year.
The young winger has also produced when it matters most and was selected in the team of the tournament at both the European Championship in 2004 and the World Cup in 2006.
Who would be the challengers for the title of best ever Premier League player? There are many great players that have graced the Premier League and the names just roll off the tongue. Eric Cantona, Thierry Henry, Ryan Giggs, Gianfranco Zola, Dennis Bergkamp, Roy Keane and Peter Schmeichel. What about England’s own Alan Shearer or David Beckham? For consistency and being the record holder for most appearances, even Gary Speed, now at Sheffield United could come into the equation.
All of the players I’ve mentioned, and no doubt several who you will remind me that I haven’t mentioned, have made a dramatic impact on the game in this country.
From the angelic young David Beckham’s goal from his own half against Wimbledon, to Eric Cantona’s majestic persona. From Thierry Henry’s record breaking 174 goals for Arsenal to the astonishing brilliance of Peter Schmeichel. From the 500+ games of Ryan Giggs and his sixteen major medals, to the remarkable 112 goals scored by Alan Shearer in only 138 games for Blackburn. From the frightening determination of Roy Keane to the exquisite skills of Bergkamp and Zola. These are all great players.
Despite the wonderful abilities of the players I have mentioned here, I believe that Cristiano Ronaldo has a genuine claim for the title of best Premier League player ever. He scores goals. He dribbles brilliantly and he runs faster with the ball than any player I have ever seen. Harry Redknapp described him as unplayable.
Add to the mix his awesome shooting power, and his step-overs and tricks that mesmerise and entertain, and I think he is the clear winner.