The questions that needed asking this fall as we examined Spanish scoring star Raul and his all-time best 71 goals in Champions League action were these:
Which of the game’s current global giants, Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, would race forward to swipe the record from Raul, who scored the bulk of his goals over 17 storied seasons with Real Madrid? (Messi had a fairly sizeable leg up in the chase coming into the 2013-14 tournament.)
The other question: would one of them do it before the current Champions League campaign ends?
Ronaldo’s hat trick from Tuesday in Real Madrid’s demonstrative 6-1 win over Galatasaray left the Portuguese star with 53 career goals. And with those three strikes he seemed to be closing in on Messi, who started the day with 59.
But the peerless Messi did not end this first round of Champions League group matches with a mere 59. Not after his own hat trick against Ajax, the fourth in Champions League play.
The inevitable questions are being asked about whether Messi is playing off Ronaldo’s totals, hyper aware of Ronaldo’s feats – not to mention the Real Madrid man’s new contract, adorned with commas aplenty?
But does asking these questions diminish what Messi, two years younger than Ronaldo, has accomplished and will accomplish? Does anyone really believe that Messi could not have netted a fourth career Champions League hat trick without the added motivational carrot of keeping ahead of Ronaldo?
Who really knows, I suppose. Either way, here are the updated numbers, what the all-time Champions League scoring leadership looks like:
- Raul, 71
- Leo Messi, 62
- Ruud van Nistelrooy, 56
- Cristiano Ronaldo, 53