Cristiano Ronaldo capped off an incredible 2023 with a stoppage-time strike in Al-Nassr’s come-from-behind 4-1 demolition of Saudi Pro League rivals Al-Taawon.
It was his 44th goal in his 50th appearance for the Jeddah outfit as Luis Castro’s side maintained a seven-point deficit on top-flight pacesetters Al-Hilal at the halfway point of the season.
Ronaldo had a strange year in 2023. Following Portugal’s early 2022 World Cup exit and a tarnished relationship with Manchester United, he left Europe to embrace the riches of Saudi Arabia.
He was among the first European stars to move to the Middle East, setting the tone for an unprecedented shift in world football dynamics, which made the Saudi Pro League one of the world’s most attractive destinations.
Despite switching to the desert in the autumn of his illustrious playing career, the 38-year-old has preserved his ever-present desire to win and score goals.
Even though his trophy-laden playing career is nearing its end, he shows no signs of slowing down. The numbers never lie. In Ronaldo’s case, they’re staggering.
In addition to averaging 0.88 goals per game for Al-Nassr, the Portugal captain excelled at international level, playing a prominent role in the Selecao’s historic European Championship 2024 qualifying cycle.
Led by new manager Roberto Martinez, the Euro 2016 winners steamrolled to the top of Group J with ten victories, a feat they never achieved throughout their storied history.
Ronaldo’s contriubtion was immense. Alongside Man Utd ace Bruno Fernandes, he soaked up the limelight as Portugal’s standout performer, rolling back the years to net ten goals in nine matches in 2023.
Only Belgium stalwart Romelu Lukaku’s haul of 14 goals bettered the Portuguese superstar’s tally in Euro 2024 qualifying, showing he’s still a force to be reckoned with even at 38.
With 54 goals for club and country, Ronaldo finished 2023 as the world’s most prolific player, and it took him only 59 games to hit this outrageous figure.
Some people would argue he’s no longer playing at the top level, yet it takes nothing away from the ex-Sporting Lisbon prodigy’s everlasting appetite for scoring.
However, Ronaldo was not the only player to smash a 50-goal barrier in 2023. Three other European powerhouses joined this select club.
New Bayern Munich talisman Harry Kane hit the ground running in the Bundesliga from the outset, as he heads into 2024 as the division’s top-scorer with 21 goals.
Kane only needed 15 league appearances to hit a 20-goal landmark, which, combined with his splendid scoring record for Tottenham Hotspur and England, took his overall tally to 52.
Paris Saint-Germian speed demon Kylian Mbappe went toe-to-toe with the Three Lions skipper as the two ended 2023 as the joint-best European goalscorers.
Of his 52 strikes, 42 came for Les Parisiens.
He bagged 34 league goals in 2023 en route to becoming the first player to win the Ligue 1 top-scorer award five times in a row in 2022/23 and moving top of the scoring leaderboard in 2023/24.
Manchester City’s scoring machine Erling Braut Haaland was the only remaining player to book his place in the 50-goal club in the last calendar year.
Haaland’s remarkable maiden campaign in the Premier League entered the division’s folklore, with the Norway international setting the new record for the highest number of goals scored in a single season.
The 23-year-old tallied 36 goals in 35 top-flight appearances and added 12 more in the Champions League in 2022/23 as Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering side won a historic treble.
His numbers continue to grow. Despite missing the last couple of games through injury, Haaland is the league’s joint-top scorer alongside Liverpool hero Mohamed Salah.
The 50-Goals Club 2023
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