Cristiano Ronaldo with Portugal - Grim Determination to push the Seleção to new Heights

reuters

Chris Howie

Cristiano Ronaldo’s absurd statistics for club and country are well documented. The man from Madeira is currently Portugal’s most capped player with 164 appearances and is their highest goal scorer of all time with 99 goals - 47 of which he has scored since he turned 30. As it stands he is ten goals behind the all-time international goals record set by Iran’s Ali Daei, a record which at 35 years of age (yet with the reported physique of a 23-year-old), he looks set to break. 

This year’s emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic will see Ronaldo’s Portugal have to wait a year to defend their European Championship crown, a title won in 2016 which was inspired by the sheer will, grit and determination of one of the finest athletes to have ever graced any sport. 

For Ronaldo, the international journey has been long. Making his debut in 2003, this year’s edition of the Euros would have been his 5th appearance at a European Championship, alongside his involvement in 4 World Cup campaigns. To carry on with the absurd statistical theme, he has scored in all of the competitions he has played in, the only player in history to achieve this feat. 

The Ronaldo Statistics Reel is never-ending. Such is his determination to be the best footballer that has ever lived, he invariably gets drawn into a discussion with, that other guy who is also the best who ever lived. Where Lionel Messi and Ronaldo trade blows at club level, it’s at international level where the never-ending comparisons tend to come unstuck. Cristiano has won a European Championship with Portugal, perhaps in an alternate reality where Portugal didn’t lose to Greece in the 2004 final on home soil, he would have had two. 

For now, he has won one international trophy at least. A very real one. The title-winning Euro 2016 campaign saw him score a modest 3 goals in the competition, yet all three were crucial. None more so than the trademark towering header he bulleted past Wayne Hennessey in the Semi-Final against Wales. 

In the final, A cruel sense of irony was delivered to Ronaldo. A well-oiled machine of a player who in the two years prior to this game had missed only 5 games for Real Madrid through injury in the form of his life; having won a second Champions League for Real Madrid (out of an eventual 4) and scored 51 goals for Los Blancos in the season.

However, In the 25th minute of the final, he would see a recurrence up of a thigh complaint hinder his mobility. A clearly distraught Ronaldo attempted as much as he could to play on, but he was inevitably withdrawn on a stretcher and replaced by Ricardo Quaresma.  

But this is Cristiano Ronaldo. The serial winner in him would not see him out for the count. As the final against the French ground out to extra time and when the unlikely hero, Eder, fired his shot past Hugo Lloris to make it 1-0, a patched-up Cristiano Ronaldo barked orders over boss Fernando Santos’ shoulder, lifting his teammates, motivating them, doing all he could muster to drag Portugal on. 

Drag them on he did. Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo held on to lift their first-ever international silverware. After the game, Ronaldo gave an emotional speech in the dressing room where he said “Nobody believed in Portugal, but the truth is we made it” before adding “this is the one trophy that has been missing”.

Whether he was talking about himself or Portugal is perhaps ambiguous, but what can’t be debated is that nothing brings the best out of Ronaldo, like the Seleção. 

By the time postponed Euro 2020 starts in the summer of 2021, Cristiano Ronaldo will be 36 years old, currently one year younger than Arsenal Coach Mikel Arteta and 4 years older than RB Leipzig manager, Julian Nagelsmann. Time catches up with the best of us but for Ronaldo, you can be sure he’ll defy Time’s clutches for a little longer, at least until there are no records left for him to break.