There’s nothing more pleasing than proving a few doubters wrong, making them eat their words after putting you down for so long, and that’s exactly how Cristiano Ronaldo has responded in recent weeks. After all, the narrative was he was “done” and “finished” at this level and no longer at the peak of his physical powers.
Surely the only way for Real Madrid’s all-time top scorer was down and he was meant to come to terms with no longer being in his prime. Except the Portuguese doesn’t do normal and he’s been exemplary in the last few weeks of what has been an “average” season by his standards.
To put things in context, the former Manchester United man has hit 35 goals in all competitions this season. Average? Maybe by his standards, but it’s a phenomenal return for someone his age, and a tally most forwards will envy.
Atletico Madrid and Diego Simeone will be sick of the sight of him and Real Madrid’s, as their rivals have constantly thrown a spanner in the works to their attempts to claim the most prestigious cup tournament at club level. In the last four years in Europe Los Colchoneros have been stopped in their tracks by Los Blancos, with Ronaldo a protagonist in most – if not all – of the meetings.
Last night’s 3-0 win in the first leg of the Uefa Champions League semi-finals at Bernabeu, was Ronaldo’s second hat-trick against Atleti this season; with the one in the league silencing a large section of the Vincente Calderon crowd. A constant thorn in their side, they just can’t live with him.
On a night when Diego Simeone’s men didn’t get a sniff, Zinedine Zidane still needed a brilliant performance by his forwards in the attacking third, and Cristiano stepped up. A man for the big occasions? Absolutely. After only two strikes in the group stage of this year’s edition – going six goalless months in the process – the Portuguese maestro has risen above the rest in the last two knockout rounds, scoring a brace and two hat-tricks in the last three games. 103 goals in the Champions league – with 88 of those strikes coming in 86 games for the Madrid giants – is truly staggering.
He’s also the first player to score consecutive hat-tricks in the knockout stages of the competition, with both coming against two really good sides in Bayern Munich and Atletico. Sometimes, words may not do justice to how brilliant Ronaldo is, but he truly is extraordinary.
Zidane deserves credit for properly managing him as well; choosing to rest him in some games to keep him fit and fresh for the business end of the campaign, and that in itself, is proving to be a masterstroke.
The Frenchman has also created an army of warriors behind him, players who have the intelligence to know he may not be involved in the general build-up play but are constantly in tune to his movements off the ball at every moment.
Ronaldo may not be at the peak of his powers – physically, of course – but his predatory instincts are still as good as ever, if not better.
Barring any monumental collapse, the Madrid giants are surely in another Champions League final – which would be their third in four years – and while they may or may not win it, with the legendary Cristiano Ronaldo in their ranks, one thing’s certain, he will give as good as he’s got!
Stop doubting him too… because you run the risk of being constantly fed a large dose of humble pie as he keeps defying logic!
Photo source: Zimbio.com