Cristiano Ronaldo: ‘The Best’ Without Actually Being The Best
Only Ronaldo can pull off being named the best player when you aren’t really the best. But if not Ronaldo, then who?
Cristiano Ronaldo is undoubtedly one of the greatest players of the football world. He broke into the scene in the mid-2000s, gaining fans by the hundreds with his ability to glide past players and change the game at will.
Then hailed as a goal-scoring machine, for his ability to score in almost every match, Ronaldo was a beast who tore apart the best of defences with his speed and rapid dribbling skills, breaking a few ankles on the way.
On 23 October, Ronaldo won his fifth FIFA player of the year award, levelling with rival and fellow contender for the tag of greatest footballer of this era, Lionel Messi. What’s more, Ronaldo is also the favourite to win the prestigious Ballon d’Or award this year.
An Overflowing Trophy Cabinet
Ronaldo holds the most number of the records in football: He is the all-time highest goal scorer for Real Madrid, the all-time top scorer for Portugal, the highest goal scorer in the UEFA Champions League with 110 goals, the highest scorer in UEFA Euro (International tournament) with 29 goals and highest scorer in UEFA Champions league in a season with 17 goals, to name a few. He has the most number of official goals in the top five European leagues as well.
He has won five FIFA player of the year awards, four European golden boots (the only player to do so till date). Ronaldo holds the most number of UEFA player of the year awards (with three awards). He also has four Ballon d’Ors to his name, with a fifth likely on its way this later this year.
In addition, he has won 24 major trophies and seven player of the month awards (4 in the English league and 3 in the Spanish). He has also been named player of the season three times for both English and the Spanish leagues combined, being one of the only three players to win the Premier League player of the season award twice (along with Thierry Henry and Nemanja Vidic).
But all of that is now in the past. Because the Ronaldo we see today is not the same Ronaldo who broke transfer records for his move from Manchester United to Real Madrid.
While he still holds most records and honours in international and club football, Cristiano Ronaldo has not been on top of his game for the past few seasons. Ask anyone who watches football, and they’ll tell you he is no longer the same player who built a reputation of single-handedly taking the best of defences apart.
Take for instance his season so far. His current tally of one goal in five La Liga appearances is a career-low, especially when compared to Messi’s record of 11 goals in 9 games with 3 assists (how he’s showing no signs of slowing down is a story for another day).
I’m one of Ronaldo’s biggest fans, and it irks me every time I see him get lazy while on the pitch. Granted, we still get to see glimpses of the Ronaldo who used to take on 4-5 players at once. But those fleeting glimpses are all we get to see of that vintage Ronaldo magic now. One can only hope to see him perform again like he did against Manchester United while playing for Lisbon in 2003, or his 3 strikes at the Calderon against rivals Atlético Madrid in the 2011/12 league. or the thrashing he gave Arsenal in the 2008/09 Champions League.
Ronaldo is 32, and while that is no mean feat for a professional football player, he manages to maintain an astonishing fitness level. Of course, it is almost impossible to hold on to the “best in the world” tag, when Lionel Messi is in the running too. And Ronaldo may eventually make a mockery of the current analysis of his form by the end of the season (like he always does). All said and done, being named the best player when you aren’t actually the best player is something only Ronaldo can pull off.
If Not Ronaldo, Then Who?
So if we are to assume that Ronaldo’s game is diminishing, then it means that the era of Ronaldo-Messi dominance is drawing to a close. It is time, therefore, to stop with the done-to-death Ronaldo vs Messi debate and focus on the future instead.
The game has changed a lot since and both Messi and Ronaldo have set the bar high. But there is a pool of young footballing talent that could effortlessly follow in their footsteps. In the current scenario, 25-year-old Neymar appears most likely to register his name among the next set of footballing greats. With his €222 million switch from Barcelona to Paris Saint Germain adding to his sheen, Neymar has been in spectacular form for the past two seasons. With his sombrero-style and gravity-defying skills, Neymar was the highest provider in the 2016-17 season with 21 assists.
With his switch to PSG, Neymar will also be the star of the team rather than being under the shadow of Messi in Barcelona. This will prove to be a milestone for him as he will get to score many more goals and enjoy much more importance in Paris. Having already scored 7 goals in 8 league games along with 5 assists in his debut season at the French capital, there is no doubt that Neymar will manage to score as many goals as the dominant duo, while also raking up a decent amount of assists.
At 25 years of age, Neymar can effortlessly take the throne from Ronaldo and Messi if their form begins to fade in the near future. At his age, Ronaldo had 117 club goals against Neymar’s 101. But in terms of creating chances, Neymar is way ahead, with a record 62 assists, as against 41 by a 25-year-old Ronaldo.
For now, Ronaldo is awaiting his fifth Ballon D’Or. But what if this one is his last?
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