Cristiano Ronaldo: Do Not Doubt His Brilliance

Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the best players in world football, his achievements are astonishing – Yet he still has his critics and his ability is questioned on occasion. Ronaldo will continue to silence those who doubt him until the day he hangs up his boots.

In 2009 Real Madrid entered into the transfer market, breaking the world record once more. €94 million were paid to Manchester United to sign a 24 year old Portuguese star, the holder of the Ballon d’or, FIFA’s World Player of the Year. A man with the talent and dedication to become the ultimate modern day footballer, Cristiano Ronaldo.

Nearly 600 miles from the Portuguese main land lies the island of Madeira, the birth place in 1985 of a world football phenomenon, obsessed with the game at a young age. The raw talent of Cristiano Ronaldo quickly attracted the attention of the island’s best teams. It was not long before Portugal’s top clubs came calling, at age 11 he signed for Sporting Lisbon. His period at the Lisbon academy was a defining one, he became the first player in Sporting’s history to go from the under 16 class all the way to the first team in the same season. The right winger then scored twice on his debut.

In 2003 Sporting Lisbon played Manchester United in a pre-season friendly, the match would change Ronaldo’s career forever. He terrorised Manchester United, to the extent the club ended up signing the talented youngster. In Manchester, Ronaldo faced the challenge of a new country, a new way of life and a new style of football. The young Portuguese was eased in gently by manager, Sir Alex Ferguson. Watching at close quarters it was obvious that Scotsman had signed a player of immense natural ability. There was a buzz of excitement as soon as he stepped off the bench for his debut at Old Trafford against Bolton Wanderers. His first goal for Manchester United heralded a taste of things to come, Ronaldo scored eight times during that first season, including the opener in the FA Cup final, as United defeated Millwall 3-0 in Cardiff. Still only a teenager, Ronaldo had established himself as the clubs new number 7, following such icons as George Best, Eric Cantona and David Beckham.

Ronaldo was not yet the finished article, but his desire to improve was obvious to all. Ronaldo’s target was simple, to become the best in the world, but he couldn’t do it alone. Ronaldo was becoming the Premier League’s best player, but not everyone was won over. Despite his success in England he faced constant criticism over his failure to convert his ability into greatness for Portugal. In 2008 Ronaldo was named the captain of his country, he quickly adapted to the role of leader. Unremarkable performances however, continued to plague Ronaldo and the national team. After a shaky start at Euro 2012, Ronaldo came alive, two goals helped dispatch the Dutch in the final group game. Some of the critics had finally been answered. Ronaldo’s winning header against the Czech Republic in the quarter final was greeted warmly in Portugal. There was the sense that Ronaldo’s overall performance and dedication was finally reflecting his status in world football.

At club level there remained a mutual adoration between Ronaldo and his supporters. Manchester United’s title success in 2007 was unquestionably at team effort, but one man took the starring role in almost every performance. Ronaldo’s commitment to the cause that season helped secure his first Premier League title, the clubs 16th. Tangible evidence for this most driven of young men, that he was heading in the right direction. The following season he scored a staggering 42 goals in all competitions. Many of them spectacular, especially his free-kicks. It was during the following season when Ronaldo was at his very best in a United shirt. Ronaldo dive tailed beautifully with Wayne Rooney, forming one of the most prolific strike partnerships in world football.

By May 2008 Ronaldo had inspired United to domestic and European glory, his penalty contributing to a victory that saw the club crowned English champions for the seventeenth time. Ronaldo found the net seven times in the Champions League, as he helped Manchester United reach the final in Moscow. Against Chelsea, not surprisingly Ronaldo quickly made his mark, scoring a terrific header. Chelsea fought back, Frank Lampard scored an equaliser which forced a penalty shootout. Ronaldo stepped up third for United and missed, but United would go on to win the shootout and the trophy. The triumph capt a remarkable season, Ronaldo was the Champions League top scorer with eight goals, the Premier League’s top scorer with 31. Ronaldo became the first United player since George Best in 1968 to win the Ballon D’or and was also voted FIFA World Player of the Year. It was the ultimate personal achievement, Ronaldo had reached his goal to be the best of the best.

Lionel Messi was voted World Player of the Year in each of the following four seasons. Ronaldo could only look on as their rivalry intensified, at least in the media. His final season at Old Trafford saw complete a hat-trick of league titles, his stunning 40 yard strike against Porto was instrumental in helping United to a second consecutive Champions League final. However, defeat to Barcelona and Messi proved to be his farewell appearance for Manchester United. Rumours of a record breaking move were about to become a reality.

Despite being idolised at Manchester United, Cristiano Ronaldo was desperate to achieve more, he saw Real Madrid as the ultimate platform. When the economics were agreed, he flew to Spain to complete a world record move of €94 million. Despite missing six weeks through injury, Ronaldo scored 33 goals in 35 appearances, he was developing into the complete footballer. The following year trophies proved difficult to come by but not goals. Ronaldo set new benchmarks for individual achievement, 53 goals in all competitions highlighted his incredible talent. His decisive header against Barcelona in the final of the Copa del Rey brought his first trophy in Spain. An incredible 40 goals in La Liga won him the golden boot and he became the first player to win the award in two different leagues.

In 2012 Real Madrid finally won La Liga, at the heart of the success was the irrepressible Ronaldo. 100 league goals in just three seasons, he ended the year with 60 in all competitions. Unremitting, unplayable, unstoppable Cristiano Ronaldo has been described as all three. Ronaldo’s combination of talent and dedication catapulted him to the highest level and in January 2014 he was awarded the Ballon d’or. Once again he was recognised as the world’s greatest player.

In La Liga, where Madrid finished second, Ronaldo went on a prolific goal-scoring run towards the end of the season. For the first time in his career, he scored five goals in one game, including an eight-minute hat-trick, in a 9–1 rout of Granada on 5 April 2015. His 300th goal for his club followed three days later in a 2–0 win against Rayo Vallecano. Subsequent hat-tricks against Sevilla, Espanyol, and Getafe took his number of hat-tricks for Real Madrid to 31, surpassing Di Stéfano’s club record of 28 trebles. As a result, Ronaldo finished the season with 48 goals, two ahead of his total in the 2011–12 season. He won the European Golden Shoe for a record fourth time.

At the start of his seventh season at Real Madrid, the 2015–16 campaign, Ronaldo became the club’s all-time top scorer, first in the league and then in all competitions. His five-goal haul in a 6–0 away win over Espanyol on 12 September took his tally in La Liga to 230 goals in 203 games, surpassing the club’s previous recordholder, Raúl. A month later, on 17 October, he again surpassed Raúl when he scored the second goal in a 3–0 defeat of Levante at the Bernabéu to take his overall total for the club to 324 goals. Ronaldo also became the all-time top scorer in the Champions League with a hat-trick in the first group match against Shakhtar Donetsk, having finished the previous season level with Messi on 77 goals. A brace against Malmö, netted in a 2–0 away win on 30 September, saw him reach the milestone of 500 career goals for both club and country. He subsequently became the first player to score double figures in the competition’s group stage, setting the record at 11 goals, including another four-goal haul against Malmö.

Despite finishing runner-up to Messi for the FIFA Ballon d’Or, Ronaldo received criticism for his form and performances against top teams, with 14 of his goals coming against Espanyol and Malmö. During the second half of the season, however, his form gradually improved. By scoring four goals in a 7–1 home win over Celta Vigo on 5 March 2016, Ronaldo arrived at 252 goals in La Liga to become the competition’s second-highest scorer in history behind Messi. After netting the match-winning goal for 10-man Madrid in a 2–1 Clásico victory on 2 April, he scored a hat-trick against Wolfsburg to send his club into the Champions League semi-finals despite a 2–0 first-leg defeat. The treble took his tally in the competition to 16 goals, making him the top scorer for the fourth consecutive season and the fifth overall. Suffering apparent fitness issues, Ronaldo gave a poorly-received performance in the final against Atlético Madrid, in a repeat of the 2014 final, though his penalty in the subsequent shoot-out secured La Undécima, Madrid’s 11th victory. For the sixth successive year, he ended the season having scored more than 50 goals across all competitions. For his efforts during the season, he received the UEFA Best Player in Europe Award for a second time.

On 6 November 2016, Ronaldo signed a new contract which will keep him until 2021 with Madrid. On 19 November, he scored a hat-trick in a 3–0 away win against Atlético Madrid, making him the all-time top-scorer in the Madrid derby with 18 goals. On 15 December 2016, Ronaldo scored his 500th club career goal (377 goals for Madrid, 118 goals for Manchester United and 5 goals for Sporting Lisbon) in the 2–0 victory over Club América in the semi-finals of the FIFA Club World Cup. He then scored a hat-trick in the 4–2 win over Japanese club Kashima Antlers in the final. Ronaldo finished the tournament as top scorer with four goals and was also named the best player of the tournament. He won the Ballon d’Or for a fourth time and the inaugural Best FIFA Men’s Player, a revival of the old-style FIFA World Player of the Year, largely owing to his triumph with Portugal at the European Championship. On 15 January, Ronaldo tied Hugo Sánchez as the most prolific penalty-kick scorer in the history of La Liga, with his 56th penalty from 65 attempts in a 2–1 loss to Sevilla, which ended Real Madrid’s 40 match unbeaten streak in all competitions.

In Real Madrid’s 3–2 away win against Villarreal on 27 February 2017, Ronaldo overtook Hugo Sánchez as the most prolific penalty-kick scorer in La Liga history. Thanks to the penalty scored by Ronaldo, Real Madrid reached its 5,900th goal in the history of the league and became the first team to do so. On 12 April 2017, in the 2016–17 UEFA Champions League quarterfinal against Bayern Munich, Ronaldo scored two goals in a 2–1 away win to give Real the win and the lead going into the second leg. The two goals saw him make history in becoming the first player to reach 100 goals in UEFA club competition. During the second leg of the quarter-finals, Ronaldo scored a perfect hat-trick and reached his 100th UEFA Champions League goal becoming the first player to do so, as Real Madrid again defeated Bayern 4–2 after extra-time. On 2 May 2017, Ronaldo scored another hat-trick in the following Champions League game, as Real beat local rivals Atlético Madrid 3–0 in the semi-final first leg.

Many may not like him, but nobody can ever doubt Ronaldo’s ability or his achievements.

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