Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo now plays for Saudi club Al Nassr AFP / Fayez NURELDINE

Portuguese football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo may have left the glaring spotlight in Europe's top leagues to ply his trade in Saudi Arabia, but his efforts are enough to make sure that he continues to be right in the limelight.

With just a few days remaining in the 2023 calendar year, the former Manchester United forward is sitting at the top of the goal-scoring charts. Ronaldo joined Saudi Pro League side Al Nassr in January and raised a lot of eyebrows in the football community, but he has now established himself as the year's leading goal-scorer.

Aging like fine wine

Ronaldo is already 38 years old, which for a professional athlete is considered a senior citizen. After a frustrating stint back at Manchester United, many detractors believed that he was already heading downhill. This was reinforced by his move to the Saudi Pro League, which at the time was perceived more as a retirement plan than an actual career move.

However, in the twelve months since, Ronaldo has not only continued to showcase his talents, he has even changed the face of the entire league. In the summer, months after his transfer, many of Europe's top stars also made the exodus out to the Middle East.

The likes of Neymar Jr., former Real Madrid captain Karim Benzema, Liverpool legend Roberto Firmino, Jordan Henderson, Sadio Mane and Aymeric Laporte are now playing for Saudi Pro League sides.

Needless to say, the competition in the league is not exactly easy. The level of play has become elevated, yet Ronaldo has still managed to come out on top.

This point was further strengthened by Ronaldo's brace during Al Nassr's recent 5-2 victory against reigning champions Al Ittihad on Tuesday. His two goals added to his total tally of 53 goals so far this year, along with 15 assists in 58 games played.

Complete list of 2023 top scorers:

  • Cristiano Ronaldo (Al-Nassr) - 53 goals (58 matches)
  • Kylian Mbappe (PSG) - 52 goals (53 matches)
  • Harry Kane (Bayern Munich) - 52 goals (57 matches)
  • Erling Haaland (Manchester City) - 50 goals (60 matches)
  • Garbhan Coughlan (Cashmere Technical) - 41 goals (27 matches)
  • Denis Bouanga (Los Angeles FC) - 40 goals (53 matches)
  • German Cano (Fluminense) - 40 goals (61 matches)
  • Romelu Lukaku (Roma) - 40 goals (61 matches)
  • Barnabas Varga (Ferencvaros) - 39 goals (45 matches)
  • Santiago Gimenez (Feyenoord) - 39 goals (63 matches)

At the moment, Ronaldo is only one goal ahead of England captain and Bayern Munich forward Harry Kane, who has scored 52 times in 57 matches. Kane is tied in second place with Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe, who has netted 52 goals in 53 matches.

However, despite the narrow margin, neither of the two will have a chance to dethrone Ronaldo before the year is over. This is simply due to the fact that their clubs have already played their final fixtures of the year and won't resume competitive action until after the new year.

Manchester City's Norwegian ace, Erling Haaland, is within touching distance after having scored 50 goals in 60 matches. He can potentially match Ronaldo with a hat-trick on Saturday, December 30, when City face Sheffield United in their last match of the year. However, Haaland has been sidelined due to injury, which kept him out of the recently concluded Club World Cup and their match against Everton on Wednesday.

This means that he may not be available on Saturday. At most, he may be fit enough to come off the bench, but a hat-trick will be difficult to achieve. Scoring four goals to topple Ronaldo completely off the top spot would be even harder.

In other words, all signs are pointing to Ronaldo ending the year 2023 as the overall top scorer in the world of football, at least across the most high profile leagues. It is an amazing feat for the Portuguese star, and it could influence his decision over the possibility of signing a contract extension with Al Nassr.