Incredible. Astonishing. Mesmerising. Extraordinary. There is simply not enough words to describe the brilliance and genius of one Cristiano Ronaldo. Tuesday night against Juventus in the Champions League quarter-final was another night in which Ronaldo came up trumps and proved every footballing fan who is pro-Messi that he still has much more left in the tank, and most of all that he should be considered the best player in the world.
Two goals, the second a delightful over-head kick which left Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon with no chance as Real Madrid took a giant step towards yet another Champions League semi-final and a possible third European title in a roll with an emphatic 3-0 victory in Turin.
Into the veterinary age of 34, and Cristiano Ronaldo still continues to amaze us. The Portuguese forward has served up so many magical moments on a plate over the last decade and more but Tuesday’s performance showed he is the man Real Madrid turn to when they need him most, and turn up he did. His genius of a second has all but secured Real Madrid’s passage to the last 4, barring an inspired miracle by Juventus. The goal was so impressive even the home crowd could not do anything but applaud the genius that graced their stadium once again.
Once Ronaldo reached the ball head height, all the Juve defenders could do was watch and behold as the world stopped for a moment and experienced the amazement and awe of another Cristiano Ronaldo showpiece. Heads were drawn to Ronaldo’s brilliance like they’d experienced the second coming of Jesus Christ.
It was the moment the footballing world was at the feet of the extraordinary Portuguese superstar.
Fans who plainly see Lionel Messi as the best player in the world must have had second thoughts once Ronaldo netted that stunner. It was a joy to behold. Cristiano Ronaldo and Champions League knockout football is the perfect marriage: they complement each other so beautifully like bacon and eggs, like ketchup and chips or even cheese and wine. It’s the perfect combination that brings out the best in both, delivering the most scintillating moments on the grandest European stage, its where the best moments are made and Ronaldo never fails to impress.
To do that in one of the most iconic atmospheres in European history against such players as iconic as Buffon, Chiellini and co was almost unheard of, absurd and plain heinous. Zinedine Zidane orchestrated the perfect performance against a side he once graced as a player in his own genius days. From the brilliance of Keylor Navas – an underrated component in the side – to the sheer composure and elegance of Spanish playmaker Isco. Real Madrid were a class apart on a night where the Spanish giants always prove just too strong for their opponents. Despite their failures domestically, Zidane has managed to pull the cat out of the bag in Europe, and has done so for the last two seasons.
But lets not take anything away from the awesomeness of Cristiano Ronaldo.
He is quite simply in the goal-scoring form of his life, yes, of his life. Despite his brilliant scoring record for the Spanish giants, its crazy to say he is in actual fact in the goal-scoring form of his illustrious career. The Portuguese great has found the net in recent months at an extraordinary rate. 23 goals in his last 12 appearances just speaks volumes at the form Ronaldo is in right now. Reverse that statistic and its what most players would be happy with, but Ronaldo isn’t most players. Ronaldo constantly defies the laws of football physics – I mean literally as shown last night – if there is such a term. He is out of this world, a player who consistently beleaguers belief.
In a game of such importance and magnitude stacked with top players both young and old, Ronaldo took centre stage yet again. Taking the shine of these European nights away from Ronaldo is like trying to steal a toy from a toddler – almost difficult to achieve. The first he scored inside three minutes just tells you what you need to know about this great player. The illusive movement to elude the Juventus defenders was so key; Chiellini, one of the best defenders ever to grace the game just could not live with the jinky movement from Ronaldo. A pivot here and a classy outstretched leg there.
Having spent most of career bamboozling defenders with the ball at his feet, he instead has the audacity to attempt it without – and successfully. They say with age comes wisdom and Ronaldo has certainly done just that in terms of adapting his game, he is no longer that marauding winger you enjoyed watching at Old Trafford for Manchester United or over the last few years at Madrid, he has now adapted his game to that legendary poacher – a striker who is always at the right place at the right time.
He has become football’s poacher supreme and much more, elevating the art of the penalty area like players such as Ruud Van Nistelrooy – a player Ronaldo played with during his young days at United – the Dutchman was a genius in the box, like a fox prowling at every opportunity and Ronaldo has effortlessly taken a leaf out of Van Nistelrooy’s book.
The contrast with fellow number 9 and former Real Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuian was so vast. The Argentinian unable to beat Keylor Navas from point blank range at the other end, had rather a night to forget. Nonetheless, Higuian is a world-class striker. But he is not Ronaldo. The one-time magician of dribbles is now arguably the games most lethal finisher, scoring in each of his last 10 Champions League games. Mightily Impressive.
That was not all for Ronaldo’s night, he then assisted Marcelo’s goal as Real Madrid added the icing on the cake and put the gloss over a complete performance for the 11-time Champions League winners. It was atypical of the reformed Ronaldo. 32 goals of the last 37 have been directly scored by himself, with only 5 being assist for others. Call it what you want, Cristiano Ronaldo is self-made.
Yet again, the 50-goal mark for the season is in his sights and credit must go to Zinedine Zidane for the way he has deployed Ronaldo so sparingly this season. Gone are the days of Ronaldo playing almost every game both domestically and on the European front, now the Portuguese is rather unleashed when it matters most. Zidane has helped to convince Ronaldo that there is a sense in picking his battles to protect the body for bigger challenges.
He will hope to add to his impressive total when Real Madrid host Atletico Madrid on Sunday, but La Liga is not his primary focus right now. With Juventus all but dispatched, Ronaldo and co are almost a semi-final away from another Champions League final showpiece. A chance to make it a hat-trick of victories under the tutelage of Zidane. The French coach also familiar with the prestigious title in his own playing days. Yeah, there might be teams such as Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Barcelona – all dominating their respective leagues – but when it matters most you cannot count out Real Madrid, its like they step to yet another gear when the famous and illustrious Champions League music hits. It’s where Ronaldo is at his sparkling best at the grandest stage of them all.
We can truly and proudly say, we lived in a time of the one and only Cristiano Ronaldo.