During his six-year spell with Manchester United, Cristiano Ronaldo established himself as one of the world’s elite players. At the time, the winger was pivotal to Manchester United’s success, helping the Red Devils secure three consecutive Premier League titles between 2006 and 2009. Moreover, during this period, the now 35-year-old also claimed the illustrious Ballon d’Or award in 2008 after scoring 31 top-flights goals in 34 games. But, is the Juventus attacker the league’s best Portuguese competitor?
What Do the Records Say?
In addition to Ronaldo’s three Premier League titles, the former Real Madrid winger also won the Champions League, Club World Cup, Community Shield, FA Cup, and League Cup under Sir Alex Ferguson. As touched on above, the Portugal international also became the first United player to win the Ballon d’Or since George Best in 1968.
From a goalscoring perspective, the six-foot-two attacker is, at the time of writing, the Premier League’s most prolific Portuguese player. Across his 196 appearances, Ronaldo found the net on 84 occasions. By comparison, this total is 55 more than the current second-highest scoring Portugal-born participant, Luis Boa Morte. Moreover, the 2008 Ballon d’Or winner is also in the top three for all-time assists from Portuguese players in the Premier League, one behind Boa Morte, and nine away from his former United teammate, Nani.
Away from the statistics, while many factors have been behind the Red Devils’ recent drop-off in form, their inability to replace Ronaldo has undoubtedly had an impact. As of July 27th, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team are 8/1 to win the Premier League in the 2020-21 season with football betting from Space Casino, making them third favourites behind both Liverpool and Manchester City. Fundamentally, it’s a testament to Ronaldo’s talent that United are still feeling the effects of his departure 11 years after he left for Real Madrid.
Who’s His Competition?
While the Premier League has become a go-to league among Portuguese players in recent years, few have been able to reach world-class heights in England. Despite their positional differences, Ricardo Carvalho is arguably Ronaldo’s main competition for the title of being the Premier League’s best Portuguese participant. Even though the former Chelsea defender isn’t considered in the same regard as the likes of John Terry or Rio Ferdinand, for example, his contributions were integral to Chelsea’s title-winning triumphs in the mid-2000s.
On reflection, there can be no doubt that Carvalho was more than just Terry’s defensive partner. In reality, he was one of the best defenders of his era. Over the course of his Premier League career at Stamford Bridge, the Amarante-born centre-back played 135 games, scoring seven goals and provided four assists, according to Transfermarkt. Much like Ronaldo, Carvalho won three league titles, and one of these triumphs saw a record-breaking campaign from the Blues in 2004-05, where they conceded just 15 goals.
Aside from the former Chelsea defender, Boa Morte could also be in the conversation. The Lisbon-born forward has one Premier League title to his name, which he won during his two-year spell at Arsenal between 1997 and 1999. Regarding appearances, Boa Morte has played in exactly 100 more matches than the league’s next highest-featuring Portuguese player, having amassed 296 top-flight appearances.
A Lasting Legacy
While the likes of Boa Morte and Carvalho have forged their own legacies, neither are able to match the footballing impact and global influence of Ronaldo. When you factor in his honours, both individually and as part of a team, the 35-year-old’s achievements are unrivalled by a fellow Portuguese player in Premier League history.