In Case You Needed A Reminder Cristiano Ronaldo Might Be The GOAT…

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When the biggest teams line up against each other, the biggest players step up to make the difference. Sometimes the difference-makers—in fact most of the time—the difference-makers contribute in subtle ways that impact the outcome of a game.

In Cristiano Ronaldo’s case, the difference couldn’t be more blatant and in your face. On Tuesday afternoon, the man from Portugal reminded us why some people think he should be considered the greatest player the world has ever seen.

The scene was the Allianz Stadium in Turin, Italy. Juventus were hosting Atlético Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League. In the knock-out rounds of the tournament, there is a home-and-away leg and the team who has the better aggregate score goes on to the next round. In the first leg of he Juventus v Atlético match-up in Spain, Atlético came out with a 2-0 win. This meant that to advance, Juventus would have to win at home by three goals. Ronaldo spent years terrorizing Atético when he played for Real. He beat them in two Finals. They hate the sight of him.

In the first leg, they were relentless, jeering and whistling every time he touched the ball. It got under Ronaldo’s skin apparently as he was filmed leaving the dressing room after the game saying to a small group of journalists, “Ronaldo: cinco Champions League. Atléti: cero.”

It was a fatal mistake for Atlético Madrid to make Ronaldo angry. In an interview before the second leg in Italy Ronaldo told a journalist, “Get ready to come back.” Never short on confidence.

The man stepped onto the field and scored a hat trick, leading Juventus to a 3-0 win and a 3-2 aggregate victory. He then mimicked Diego Simeone, the coach of Atlético, in his celebration that he aimed at the visiting fans.

Juventus have reached the Champions League Final twice in the last five years, only to lose to Barcelona first, and then Real Madrid and Ronaldo the second time. They knew they needed a star player who could be the difference-maker in the biggest games. The check was written and Ronaldo arrived. He’s already proved that €100 million wasn’t too high a price for a 33-year-old.

As great as his influence has been in Italy, his absence in Spain is equally astonishing. Real Madrid has seemed to go completely off the deep end since he left. After winning the Champions League three years in a row, Madrid were knocked out by Dutch Champions, Ajax, with an aggregate score of 5-3 and a humiliating home defeat 4-1. Considered by most to be the best club team in Europe for the past three years, the identity of Real has seemed to become a mystery as soon as Ronaldo drove his Bugatti out of the city and over to Italy.

The draw for the Champions League Quarter Finals is on March 15th. Four English teams remain with Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham, and Liverpool. In addition, Ajax from the Netherlands, Juventus, Porto from Portugal and of course Barcelona and Messi are still in the competition. Ronaldo is the competition’s all-time leading goal-scorer with an astronomical tally of 124 goals in 160 games over his career with Manchester United, Real Madrid and now Juventus. After his stunning performance against Atlético, the world’s greatest manager, Pep Guardiola of Manchester City, praised Ronaldo and hinted that he wouldn’t want to face them in the next round.

Aside from Ronaldo’s accolades, the tournament this season has seen a broad spectrum of drama and quality. Manchester City, for example, have shown the class and skill to brand themselves favorites as they blew past Schalke 04 of Germany in the round of 16 with an aggregate score of 10-2. Manchester United overturned a 2-0 deficit against Paris Saint-Germain by winning 3-1 in Paris and advancing on the away goals rule.

The best players in the world are on show in this year’s Champions League and with the exception of Lionel Messi, none shine brighter than Cristiano Ronaldo, the man who simply refuses to lose.

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Eddy Prugh is currently a professional soccer player from Montana. He plays for Skellefteå FF of Sweden’s Division 1 Norra and has spent time at The Colorado Springs Switchbacks of the United Soccer League and Bodens BK, another Swedish team. He spent one year playing at Oregon State University and has a love for the rain and laid-back lifestyle of the Northwest.

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