Cristiano Ronaldo has revived a truly dismal season to score an astounding 25 goals in his previous 14 appearances. The Portugal international is again in contention for rivalling his main footballing nemesis Lionel Messi, and Liverpool’s shining star Mohamed Salah for the FIFA Ballon D’Or, but has he made a case to the public for potentially being the best footballer of all-time?
Ronaldo is synonymous with football, and is idolised and adored but hated and envied in equal measure. The hatred seeping through people’s veins towards Ronaldo tends to be a sense of jealousy, or an element of biasness towards Lionel Messi, which is completely understandable considering Messi’s contrasting style, humble attitude and amiable personality.
However, the consequence of being one of the greatest footballers in history is that the public will be set to identify any source of weakness, whether it be in his current form, personality or achievements. Despite this, Ronaldo has consistently proved his critics and doubters wrong by exceeding expectations in moments of scepticism and pressure.
He illustrated this during Real Madrid’s recent second leg against Italian defending champions Juventus, whom Ronaldo scored twice against in the reverse fixture to carry his team into the next fixture with a 3-0 aggregate lead. His overhead kick received widespread applause from Juventus supporters, and was instantaneously globalised by hundreds of thousands of people on social media.
The second leg was a contrasting story and Juventus scored three goals to level the score on aggregate. Real Madrid were awarded a controversial penalty by referee Michael Oliver, who was forced to send off Juventus’ legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon in the aftermath of his decision. This caused a 5 minute interruption between the awarding of the spot-kick and the eventual conversion from Ronaldo.
He’d performed rather poorly considering his uniquely high standards, and was largely passive and ineffective throughout in the final third. Former Arsenal goalkeeper Szczesny was launched into the action for the most decisive moment of the match, and had the opportunity to temporarily crush Ronaldo’s global reputation.
Instead, Ronaldo remained as cool as ice and rifled his strike from 12 yards into an unreachable destination in the right top corner. The celebrations that followed had tingles running through my spine, and will forever symbolise one of the most enthralling, exciting and controversial ties in UEFA Champions League history, in which Cristiano Ronaldo decided in a typically composed manner.
2018 could prove a decisive year for Ronaldo, as he attempts to eclipse Lionel Messi in the race for his sixth Ballon D’Or, and also clinch his fifth UEFA Champions League. The tide is changing in the battle for supremacy between Ronaldo and Messi, but could we really traipse into unchartered territory by comparing him to the likes of Brazilian legend Pele, and Diego Maradona and Johan Cruyff, who were national icons for Argentina and Holland respectively?
One thing may hold Ronaldo back from eclipsing football’s most memorable and highest ranked players… His performances at international level have proven a hindrance in his quest of becoming the greatest footballer of all-time, but has his Euro 2016 triumph altered the public’s perception of his international career?
I’d truly like to think so! Portugal’s squad has largely consisted of players incapable of breaking into the world’s most high-profile clubs, which has reduced the likelihood of Ronaldo spreading his magic at major international tournaments. He’s the national team’s all-time top goal scorer, and practically single handily propelled them to the final in Paris, although he was unable to complete their iconic extra-time victory over hosts France due to a tragic injury.
The man is only human, although that could be questioned, due to his ability to defy physics with show-stopping moments. He’s one of the most dedicated athlete’s in sport, and has made sacrifices since childhood to guide himself to this stage of his scintillating career.
At 11, Ronaldo moved away from his family in Madeira to join Sporting Lisbon’s academy system. Despite being deemed too skinny, Ronaldo incessantly trained in the gym well into the early hours to improve both his fitness and physique. His strong character was built under Sir Alex Ferguson and the environment in which he developed in at Manchester United, which was highly competitive and unaccepting of mental weaknesses.
Ronaldo has translated this into his spell at Real Madrid, and is now officially the complete player that he’s always aspired to be. It’s a matter of opinions, some may agree, some may disagree, but I strongly believe that Cristiano Ronaldo is the best player of all-time.
His legacy will live on through future generations, but this is a player that is far from decline, as his critics suggested just months ago. The level of resistance he’s shown during his career is admirable, whenever he’s written off; he’ll force the verbal abuser to eat his words. It’s been an honour to witness the true beauty he’s provided on the football pitch, and it’ll be interesting to see how long he can maintain his assault on professional football.