In Real Madrid's Champions League group stage win over Malmö on Wednesday, Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 500th and 501st career goals. Amid the furore of his interminable tug-of-war with Lionel Messi, we can easily lose sight of the fact that that's really quite a lot. The few players who've surpassed Ronaldo in the all-time scoring tally almost invariably did so in an age of short shorts, long mustaches and leather footballs. And, if you check the footage of Josef Bican, Pelé, or Ferenc Puskás, you'll see that most of them even played before Mother Earth invented color. And she did that *ages* ago.
So for Ronaldo to be racking up such numbers in an age of transfer sagas, trademarked celebrations and competent defending is a pretty big deal. The 500 milestone is a huge one, overshadowed only by the weird and wonderful weave of mathematical coincidences that have a couple of records broken almost at once: Ronaldo became the first player to ever score 80 goals in the Champions League against Shakhtar Donetsk last time out, and his couple against Malmö enabled him to join Raúl at the top of Real Madrid's all-time goalscoring list.
Some may argue that the manner in which Ronaldo scored his 500th was a little underwhelming. It certainly wasn't the most memorable goal of the bunch, coming as it did against a veritable minnow, and being a simple one-on-one conversion after he was slipped through on goal by Isco. Some may argue that a more fitting strike would've been a heroic slalom down the left flank, leaving an array of Swedish defenders writhing on the turf and affording Ronaldo enough time to disrobe and kiss both biceps before smashing a thunderbolt into the top corner. "Enjoy that, Lionel?," he'd wink at the corner flag camera.
On one level, they'd be right. After all, Ronaldo's exceptional pace, power and Charles "Dead Shot" Keen-esque finishing -- as well as his unerring confidence -- is a big part of what has enabled him to become one of the greatest footballers to ever play the game.
But really, Ronaldo's actual 500th was just as apt. When most strikers are given a clean run at goal, there's first the question of whether they've got the speed and strength to make it to the box unchallenged; if yes, they still need to have absolute confidence and a composure to roll the ball past the huge man with the huge hands between the goalposts. It's one thing being quick strong, it's another altogether marrying that with mental fortitude and delicate technique.
With Ronaldo, these most basic of skills are never in doubt. He surges through on goal while somehow maintaining the clinical dispassion of an executioner, leaving opposition defenses merely awaiting the inevitable.
And so, when Isco sent Ronaldo through on goal on Wednesday, footballing nerds everywhere were already adding another notch to their almanacs. It wasn't a spectacular strike by any means, but one that perfectly illustrated the superhuman contradiction that sets Ronaldo apart: he's at once red hot and ice cold; despite moving at a speed that most could only dream of achieving, he maintains a mental clarity and muscular dexterity that makes him impossible to stop. Cristiano Ronaldo moves fast, he thinks even faster. Who knows how many more he may yet score?