Cristiano Ronaldo sends perfect message to doubters with stunning hat-trick
Background Image Via: Flickr/Edgar Jimenez. CC BY 4.0.
Cristiano Ronaldo over the hill? Well, we've heard that before haven't we? Now aged 34, many believe his move to Juventus was somewhat admitting defeat. He could no longer compete with the younger Lionel Messi on Spanish shores so he decided to take his talents to Turin as the Portuguese's career begins to wind down.
Although Juve's Champions League campaign didn't go as planned, Ronaldo still completed a Serie A and Supercoppa Italiana double, scoring 28 goals in the process. That's a season 99% of the footballing world can only dream about, yet here Ronnie is, still stepping up to the plate when his team needed it most.
The Real Madrid and Manchester United legend doesn't only produce on the domestic stage, either. Don't forget that just a few years ago, Ronaldo helped his beloved Portugal win the European Championships when they weren't amongst the favourites. At last year's World Cup, Juventus' #7 single-handedly powered his homeland to the knock-out rounds but a one-man-army can only take you so far no matter how valiant the effort was. Finished? Not a chance.
Again, the same questions about an ageing Ronaldo were raised going into the business end of the inaugural UEFA Nations League tournament. In typical fashion, the Portuguese answered his doubters emphatically. Ronaldo opened the scoring before Switzerland equalised in the second-half. The Swiss had their tails up, Fernando Santos' me were looking tired. Up steps that man again and in a scintillating two-minute spell, Ronaldo had scored a quick-fire double to complete his hat-trick and send Portugal to another major final.
It's not just the important goals or the leading by example, Ronaldo works his socks off behind the scenes to remain in pristine condition. The only direct sporting comparison I can think of is New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who is still winning Super Bowl rings at the ripe old age of 41. The ability to play at an elite level despite getting up there in age is a skill in itself. Yet, us sports fans will remain fickle and as soon as an inevitable blip happens, we'll all be claiming Ronaldo is 'falling off a cliff' ala Max Kellerman over the last half-decade.
I put it to you that Ronaldo firmly believes he still has miles left in the tank. As sports science becomes better than ever while players continue to look after their body far more than ever before, it's only natural to see careers prolonged, particularly amongst the athletes who crave success so bad that they hate the thought of losing more than the joy of winning. Ronaldo's firmly in that category. Not many possess that elite mentality.
Alas, Ronaldo's Portugal takes on a stern Netherlands team led by what's probably the best centre-back pairing in the world right now (on paper at least anyway...) Honestly, though, are you seriously going to bet against Ronaldo pulling it out of the bag once more? There comes a time when you can no longer doubt his sheer brilliance and willingness to win. Sure, he cannot do it all on his own but you can bet your life he'll give it a good go. Not bad for a player whose career has been done for the last couple of years, eh?