The original G.O.A.T., Pele is heralded as having scored 1,281 goals in 1,363 games during a 21-year career with Santos, New York Cosmos and the Brazilian national team.
But what that famous tally includes is hundreds of goals scored in unofficial friendly or exhibition fixtures, games which are not typically counted in professional football when only goals scored in competitive outings are acknowledged.
Stripping back Pele’s goal tally to competitive games only, it falls to 767 at club level and 77 for Brazil in official international games. That makes a career total of 844, still an incredible number.
After a decade as one of the most prolific goalscorers on the planet, Ronaldo’s career goal tally currently stands at 658 after 573 games combined for Sporting CP, Manchester United and Real Madrid and a further 85 for the Portuguese national team.
In terms of international goals alone, Ronaldo has already surpassed Pele, with Iranian legend Ali Daei the only player in football history who has ever scored more (109) for his country.
Overall, Ronaldo is 186 goals behind Pele. For anyone else at the age of 33 it might be considered too much of a margin to close before retirement, not least because players generally slow down as they begin to near the end of their career.
But Ronaldo is a different beast. His incredible physical condition is such that he cannot be viewed in the same way as most other players. The fact that he will turn 34 years of age at his next birthday in February is almost irrelevant, while he has always adapted his game over time to meet changing needs.
Not for a long time has Ronaldo been the electric winger that Manchester United unearthed all those years ago, with his move to Italy likely to see him become even more of a ‘number nine’ now that Juventus have bid farewell to Gonzalo Higuain to make room in the team.
To go at least one better than Pele and score 845 career goals, Ronaldo needs to average 46.75 goals for club and country each season for the next four years when his first Juve contract is up.
Last season, he scored 44 goals in 44 games for Real Madrid alone, adding another 10 for Portugal. He only scored 42 goals for Real Madrid in 2016/17, his lowest club return since 2009/10, but still netted 10 times in international games during that season for 52 goals overall.
Some may argue that the more defensive nature of Italian football could restrict Ronaldo’s goal output now that he has moved to Serie A, but it is worth noting that a Juve side without him scored just eight fewer league goals last season than a Real Madrid side with him managed. His arrival could therefore see Juve reach a whole new level in 2018/19.
Ronaldo is driven by writing his name in history and being recognised as the greatest footballer of all time. That is what will keep driving him at international level as he seeks to win another trophy and chases Daei’s all-time global record, and that is what will also keep him going at club level as well.
If he is aware of how relatively close he is to Pele’s real career goals tally, you can bet that will be firmly in his sights.
Ronaldo appeared in Juve kit for the first time over the weekend when the first team took on the club’s Under-19 side in a final pre-season friendly. The 5-0 win yielded an unofficial goal for Ronaldo after only eight minutes, but he will soon make his competitive Juve debut next week when the reigning champions travel to Verona to face Chievo in their opening Serie A fixture.