Another scarcely believable comeback surely seals Cristiano Ronaldo the highest place in the pantheon of Champions League greats.
It seems just yesterday that Cristiano Ronaldo’s Champions League campaign was being written off by fans and pundits alike. Holding up 5 fingers to the cameras in the aftermath of Juventus’s 2-0 defeat against Atletico, the Portugese was so undeniably sour from defeat that he even felt the need to serve a reminder of the number of times he had conquered Europe – as if we could ever forget.
It was behaviour not at all becoming of one of the greatest athletes of the competition, and especially not when he had reversed such disadvantages so many times before in his career. Comebacks are a part and parcel of the Ronaldo folklore but had the man himself stopped believing?
Cut to Juventus’s in-house interview prior to the return fixture in Turin and Ronaldo, having had time to reflect on things, struck a much calmer and positive chord this time around. He spoke of positivity and the importance of self-belief, drawing perhaps from the many times he had inspired victory from what were essentially unwinnable positions.
Indeed, his body language in the tunnel at the start of the game was that of a man who knew he was on the verge of something special.
Animated as ever, the striker was spurring each of his team-mates on and it did not take long for him to make his presence felt – opening the scoring in the 27th minute before levelling up affairs over two legs in the 48th.
It was no surprise then, when destiny came calling in the final 10 minutes for him to seal his hat-trick and add another chapter to what has been much more than a fairy-tale career.
While the sheer weight of his statistics alone in the Champions League might be enough for him to lay claim to the honour of being it’s best player ever – he is the tournament’s highest goalscorer as well as the man with the most titles, having won as many titles as Barcelona have won in their entire history – he is also perhaps the player with which the tournament’s most iconic moments are associated.
Be it the tournament’s first all English final, scoring the most goals in a single season, winning three successive times(now aiming for a fourth) or being the top scorer in Champions League finals – the Portugese’s association with the tournament is so unimaginably tied in that one can almost never mention the competition without mentioning the player in the same breath.
Although a certain pint-sized Argentine may also lay claim to the accolade of the tournament’s best-ever, the number of times Ronaldo has dragged his often under-performing teams by the scruff of their necks to victory simply puts him way above anyone in the competition’s hall of fame.
Messi might be a better technician but in terms of pure match-winning ability, no one can touch the Portugese superstar.
Writing his own script at each and every step along the way, Cristiano Ronaldo is simply the Champions League’s greatest ever player. And last night at Turin just proved that notion, all over again.