Cristiano Ronaldo, we were told, is on the wane and losing the attributes that allow him to play football better than almost all other footballers, past or present. Well, the Portugal and Real Madrid captain gave another rebuff to his detractors yesterday in his relentless pursuit of enduring greatness. And goals.

A brilliantly efficient hat-trick against city rivals Atletico, with Ronaldo outshining everyone else on the pitch, all but booked Real’s place in the Champions League final. Barring a shock comeback next week, the Merengues will be in the final in Cardiff and 90 minutes away from becoming the first team in the modern era to retain the world’s greatest club prize. 

It is impossible not to be awestruck by Ronaldo’s unremitting level of excellence, and it should come as no surprise that the Madeira-born superstar is busily making fools of those who doubt him. His whole career can be charted by his smashing of the naysayers’ myths. 

“Just a showpony”

Turning up at Manchester United as a scrawny 18-year-old, his good looks, penchant for stepovers, tendency to go to ground too easily and perceived cockiness quickly earned him a legion of ill-wishers.

No bother, 196 appearances, 84 goals, 3 Premier League titles, 1 Champions League trophy and a host of domestic cups later, Ronaldo left England’s shores having proved himself as the greatest player to have graced the Premier League.

“Doesn’t do it in big games”

At Real Madrid his goalscoring reached a brazenly stupid level of consistency, hitting 50+ goals over six successive seasons. “But he doesn’t do it in the big games; he’s a flat-track bully,” bleated his critics.

No bother, Ronaldo became the first player to score in six consecutive classicos, Barcelona is one of his favourite victims (16 goals and counting), including the match-winning goal in the decisive match at the Camp Nou in 2011/12 to help Mourinho’s Madrid team beat what is widely mooted as the best ever club side to the La Liga title that season. His big-game goals at club and international level are too plentiful to list here. Ronaldo rendered perpetrators of this argument foolish long before the 8 goals in crunch Champions League matches against Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid in recent weeks. 

“Can’t be one of the greats until winning an international tournament”

This argument, citing the achievements of Pele and Maradona, purported that unless a player “proved himself” by leading his country to international glory, he could never belong to the pantheon of the all-time greats of the beautiful game. (By this curious logic, if you have the misfortune to be born in a country whose size or football culture does not allow it to prosper in major tournaments… tough luck.)

No bother, Ronaldo led his country to its first ever international trophy last summer, scoring or assisting 66% of Portugal’s goals at Euro 2016. Despite being forced off early in the final through injury, it is an irrefutable truth that had Ronaldo not been representing his nation in France one year ago, Portugal would not be the reigning European Champions today.

Intelligence

Ronaldo’s intense focus on the right training and the right lifestyle to fully harness his God-given talent, to perfectly condition his physique and to foster his burning ambition is well-documented. What is less discussed but of equal importance is his football intelligence. 

Former Manchester United teammate Gary Neville, an adamant champion of Ronaldo’s status in the history of football, tells the story of when Ronaldo was sprint training but not going at it full-pelt in his Old Trafford days. “Too much water kills the plant,” was the Portuguese’s response when called out for momentarily dropping his level of intensity.

At yesterday’s post-match press conference, Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane spoke about Ronaldo’s intelligence in managing his energy levels. The very evolution of CR7 from a swashbuckling marauding winger to a lethal penalty box predator is a perfect example of how Ronaldo has got to where he is today by using his brain, as much as his body.

It’s no surprise that Ronaldo’s influence has led Madrid to be rated as favourites to win the Champions League by the bookies. With most bookmakers backing Madrid at 4/5 to win the competition outright, this £200 cash bonus promotion at Bonus Codes may be worth looking into. In any case, Ronaldo would be the ideal man to break the formidable Juventus defence should the bookies’ second most fancied side make it to the final.

Ronaldo has spent his whole career beating down his detractors with his sheer weight of achievement. He now seems intent on beating nature.

By Tom Kundert

 

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  • Guest - Jeff M

    I find it still insulting that even after all this time, and record after record broken. Somehow we need to keep justifying how great this man is, not just in his era, but in the ECHELON of the GREATEST ever to play the game. Never seen a player so loathed by people based on pure jealousy and envy of all the gifts that he has. I applaud him dearly, that he continues to push the boundaries and say a BIG F*** YOU too all his harshest critics, who time after time keep getting a soother (Shu-Sha) put back in their mouths, only for them to spit it out and start crying again.

    Comment last edited on about 4 months ago by Tom Kundert
    from Toronto, ON, Canada
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  • Guest - George

    Cristiano Ronaldo will never get the credit he deserves until he retires, or, until Lionel Messi is out of the picture because the media needs to paint him as a cocky villain in order to take advantage of what I believe is the greatest athletic personal rivalry of all time (Messi vs. Ronaldo). Take a look at beIN Sports for example, every week they do a segment called "Team Messi va. Team Ronaldo". They even do it during the dead of SUMMER. Why? Because the debate is good for football and brings out passionate responses in everyone. Even casuals who know nothing about football are encouraged to weigh in on who they prefer - Messi or Ronaldo - on Twitter because, with the emergence of social media these days, it's all about the interaction, or should I say - "clicks". Doing your due diligence and researching both players extensively isn't necessary - the media will tell you all you need to know about them!

    Ronaldo? Well he's vain and likes to look good. He also has a huge ego and complains a lot. He makes a whole lot of money (much more than you'll ever see in your life you loser) and, not only does he own an expensive car - he owns several. He also has just about every straight woman in the world fawning over him! On the other hand - Messi? Well, he's a humble family man who's hardworking and likes to keep things low key. We're lucky if he even posts something on Instagram! He doesn't care as much about his personal appearance as you can tell by his beard and he often fights through injuries for the good of the team (like when he was busted open against Juve and Real recently). He also has a big heart (remember when he gave that Syrian kid a jersey?!) and he almost never complains about anything, usually showing respect to his teammates, the officials, and the fans... That's all you need to know everyone! So tell us! Are you Team Messi or Team Ronaldo..?!

    Such was the nature of a segment I seen on beIN sports just last week, and I've probably left a few things out. I've seen it other places as well; ESPN seems to have an unprofessional hatred towards Ronaldo claiming that, "He was TERRIBLE and then he scored in that first leg against Bayern Munich..." Well GOLLY, even if that was true, wouldn't you want to have a player who, at his worst, is STILL finding a way to score goals and WIN YOU MATCHES??! It's absolutely disgusting Tom, the bias against him... And it's even more disgraceful that brick-for-brains sheep eat it all up.

    I guess Ronaldo doesn't do any charity work and he doesn't have the heart that Messi does. I guess he doesn't have a family either. I guess he isn't hardworking and dedicated - everything he has was given to him on a silver platter. I guess Messi doesn't have an ego. I guess he isn't rich and he doesn't own any nice cars. I guess he doesn't complain about anything either. I guess he always plays amazing in every match (Juve anyone..? Argentina anyone..?) I could go on but you get my point - it's just ridiculous.

    I never see this kind of a slant taken when comparing Michael Jordan and Lebron James. Sure fans from both sides mention certain things but I don't see the MEDIA on ESPN blatantly choosing one side over the other. I can't recall the media painting Larry Bird or Magic Johnson as a villain either. Bird was "working class" and Magic was "showtime" but no one went out of their way to paint either as selfish or a terrible person. On this side of the pond, in North America, even STEROID USING BASEBALL PLAYERS have been portrayed in a better light in the sports media than Ronaldo! It's absolutely absurd! Enraging even!

    It's my hope, that when all is said and done, and the media no longer needs to sell papers or attract clicks, or even spark a good guy vs. Bad guy debate among football casuals (and I may be foolish to hope for this) that Ronaldo will in fact be remembered as one of the greats of all time. He deserves to be. BOTH he and Messi do - even though I obviously prefer Ronaldo.

    He's spent time in, and had success in, the two best leagues in the world. He's by far the best player the physical, competitive Premier League has ever seen, and he was nowhere near his best at that time. He's smashed records and won championships with Real, in both La Liga and the Champions League, all while spending years directly competing with some of the best clubs in the world and, arguably, the best team ever in Barcelona. He's completely carried us though European qualifying while playing with crap players for Portugal and in one case had to directly outdo Zlatan Imbrahimovic, in Sweden, to get us to WC Brazil. While at these tournaments, he's usually injured or struggling with a knock but is selfless and still plays. It would've been easier for him to stay home than to struggle and be mocked for his performances, and yet, he chose not to. And on top of that, he's even helped us get to a Euro semi in 2012 (losing to arguably the best international side ever in Spain on penalties when he DIDN'T EVEN TAKE ONE) and, helped lead us to a title last summer.

    Where was Antoine Griezman yesterday? In a big game - he was invisible. Where is the criticism? Isn't he supposed to be the third best player in the world? Or fourth best if you include Neymar? Oh but he doesn't get criticized for not showing up right? The entire team was poor so it's not right to criticize Antoine. Portugal was poor for almost a decade but I guess that didn't matter if pundits had the chance to criticize Ronaldo... The hypocrisy enrages me.

    Anyway, I've gone on for far too long - I just always feel the need to vent on this topic. If Ronaldo shifts to a striker (or secondary striker in the middle) for Real and Portugal for the rest of his career - I can honestly see him playing at a high level until he's 40. If Zlatan can still bang in goals in the Premier League for a poor Manchester United squad at 36, then for sure Ronaldo can do it until he's 40. And if he moves to China, or Portugal, or the MLS after that, he can easily play until he's 50. I think he's got a heck of a lot more to give going forward Tom, for both club and country given the talent he's now got around him for Portugal. I don't think another 400 goals is out of reach. Hopefully, when he hits that mark, he'll finally find his face on the "Mount Rushmore" of footballing greats. Just hope it's a better likeness than his bust was...

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  • Guest - George
    Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    (stands up and claps).

    Pretty much exactly what I would have said but with much less F-bombs. :)

    I don't need to post this here (we all know the hundreds of millions this guy donates) but if some people don't know:
    (http://www.tribalfootball.com/articles/cristiano-ronaldo-amazing-charity-work-real-madrids-superstar-4053752)

    That also doesn't cover how much he has donated in the last 3 years.

    from Burlington, ON, Canada
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  • Guest - jon/usa

    I'm sick and tired of this whole Ronaldo vs Messi debate. Both are, without question, two of the greatest of all time. I personally rate them among the Peles, Maradonas, and Cruyffs of the world. Therefore, instead of arguing over who is better -- which ultimately comes down to personal taste more than anything else since their stats and achievements are almost identical -- why not just sit back and enjoy watching two of the all time greats push each other to get better and better with every year.

    What I find most remarkable about Ronaldo is his ability to constantly evolve and adapt as he continues to lose some of the superhuman athleticism that made him so unplayable in his twenties. While he is still far from slow and he is still more than capable of creating space for himself on the dribble, he is a far cry from the explosive winger who could take on an entire team with his sheer pace and ridiculously quick feet. Rather, over the past 3 or 4 years, we have witnessed him gradually involve into a ruthless, penalty-box finisher. If anything while he is nowhere near as explosive or as dynamic as he used to be, I would argue that he his performances in the biggest games have actually been getting better with age. When you look back at his career, you start to notice that many of his most clutch performances for both club and country have taken place in his thirties which is quite extraordinary.

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  • Guest - SupremoGino

    I'm "supremely" late but absolutely fantastic article Tom. This piece really hits the ball out of the park. Nobody can deny Cristiano Ronaldo now as one of the true greats of all time - especially after winning the Euros. For me, that was the day the comparisons between him and Messi ended and the skeptics and Messi fanboys know this deep down in their hearts.. one chokes in the Copa America final, the other carries his team throughout Euro 2016 and I believe he would have scored the winning goal in the final too but God had other plans. Nevertheless, Messi as wonderful of a player he is.. (and i'm not afraid to admit it) should no longer be compared to the individually brilliant Ronaldo unless he wins a international trophy. On a side note.. I watched the Real vs. Atletico CL match and Cristiano Ronaldo was running on the pitch faster than I've seen him run in a very long time. Even at age 32, it seems the best is yet to come.

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