Champions League: Cristiano Ronaldo's remarkable new landmark down to his insatiable ambition
The pace with which Cristiano Ronaldo has touched his latest landmark in the Champions League owes much to his insatiable ambition
Over the years, Cristiano Ronaldo has modelled himself as an exceptional athlete who knows a thing or two about staying ahead of the curve. With his plethora of goals, the Portuguese superstar almost seems on an agenda to erase history from our minds. He is not the one to carry a shredder to destroy history books; rather his exploits come frequently enough to ensure those who want to keep track are panting now.
We have the latest addition to the Cristiano Ronaldo book of records now — 100 goals in the Champions League. The coveted target was accomplished thanks to a hat-trick against Bayern Munich on Tuesday night, a side which must be sick of the sight of him. Nine of Ronaldo's Champions League goals have come against the Bavarian elite; the controversial circumstances of their latest encounter must make it even more difficult for the Bayern faithful to accept that stat.
100 Champions League goals for a man who was accused of lacking an end product in his fledgling years. The blitz of Ronaldo’s subsequent glory has meant that it is not easy to recall the time when the Portuguese was a young kid on the block prone to frustrating inadequacies. The noodle hair was an affectation which stood as a sign for his slick running. There were stopovers and dribbles, alright. But he could have gone the way of many others who could not fathom what their talent meant.
Ronaldo, however, was always too sure of himself. Sometimes, a bit too sure. But it was this supreme self-confidence which carried him through choppy waters. Ronaldo likes to think of himself as a footballer who has to prove a point every time he steps out on the pitch. It’s a desire for public approval he cannot get rid of. Just sample his words from last week, after he broke his eleven hours-long scoring duck in the Champions League.
“I don't know who doubted me. The people who love Cristiano never had any doubts. You'd have to tell me who kept doubting as it never reached me.” Even on Tuesday night, when he was jeered by home fans for an off-key display, Ronaldo put his finger to his lips to shush them. By the end of the night, he had three goals to show for his exertions.
The transformation in Ronaldo’s play has been obvious for a couple of seasons now. He does not have the pace which marked out the noodle-haired teenager at Manchester United. He also cannot go past players with the graceful ease of old. However, in his final years as a player, Ronaldo is aiming to refine the very thing he lacked the most in his younger days – An end product.
After the first leg, Carlo Ancelotti acknowledged that Ronaldo is “always very decisive.” He certainly seems more incisive than before. It is unlikely that Ronaldo will score 50 goals in all competitions for six seasons in a row again but he continues to be the marked man in his team. Playing centrally, the four-time Ballon D’Or winner has nurtured his knack for finding the goal.
A few interesting numbers from his Champions League record bring out the transformation in Ronaldo. According to the website WhoScored, in his first two seasons at Real Madrid, the Portuguese averaged 2.3 shots in the penalty area. The number rose to 4.7 in 2015-16. Furthermore, during the 2010-11 Champions League campaign, Ronaldo attempted 3.8 shots on average from outside the box. The figure stands at 1.8 this season. These numbers suggest that Ronaldo is spending more time in and around the opposition penalty box than ever before.
Playing centrally and higher up the pitch has also impacted his dribbling skills. Five seasons ago, Ronaldo attempted 4.8 dribbles per game in the Champions League but that figure dropped to 1.7 last term. Ronaldo’s heightened self-awareness means that he knows he can no longer do the things that took him to the peak of his career. But he can still be pretty good.
As Zidane revealed after the quarterfinal’s first leg, Ronaldo felt he should have finished that game with the hat-trick. Hence, his happiness was somewhat qualified. “He has so much ambition,” said Zidane, in praise of a man with whom he shares a place in football’s pantheon. It is this ambition that drove Ronaldo to 100 Champions League goals. Nobody else has ever touched those lofty heights.
It is a shame that rarely can we talk about Ronaldo without mentioning Messi. But it must give the Real Madrid man satisfaction that his Argentinean rival is six goals behind him in the competition. It does seem remarkable that Ronaldo managed to score 100 goals in 137 Champions League appearances, considering that it took him 30 matches to score his first.
The pace with which he has touched his latest landmark owes much to his insatiable ambition. On 28 different occasions in the Champions League, Ronaldo has finished with two or more goals. He has six hat-tricks in the competition. This is not a man who is satisfied after scoring once. Goals and more goals is his simple objective.
With Real Madrid confirming its spot in the semifinals, it is likely that Ronaldo will add to his record tally this season. After all, if there’s one thing the 32-year-old forward has proved time and again, it is his desire to stand out on the biggest occasions. 100 goals in the Champions League, with five of them in the latest quarterfinal, is a useful way to go about it.
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