Words by Tinashe Zvobgo
I know what you’re thinking; why isn’t Lionel Messi on the list? I’ve always been hesitant to compare the two. Both are generational talents and we should feel privileged to able to watch them compete week in week out, not to mention when they actually go up against one another. That being said, this is about Cristiano Ronaldo, and his contribution to the beautiful game.
Most football players can only dream of winning the trophies and individual accolades that Ronaldo has managed to win. He has won multiple trophies in arguably three of the toughest leagues in the world (Premier League, La Liga and Serie A) showing that not only is he not afraid of taking on new challenges, but his remarkable ability to dominate wherever he goes. It’s his individual contributions that have often formed the basis of these teams and earned him 5 Ballon d’Or awards.
Like the other GOATS featured in these articles, his achievements were never simply handed to him. Behind extraordinary accomplishment lies extraordinary work ethic. Ronaldo began his career in his home country of Portugal. After joining Sporting F.C he was promoted to the first team and given his debut at the age of 16. With such talent at such a young age, it’s no surprise that when Manchester United went up against Sporting during a pre-season friendly, a certain Sir Alex Ferguson found himself profoundly impressed. Ferguson moved quickly, promptly signing the Portuguese youth in what would make a convincing argument for one of the best transfers in Premier League history.
Ronaldo left an indelible mark on the Red Devils that has seen many of their players and coaching staff continue to extoll his virtues. He inherited the famous number 7 shirt worn by United legends before him and firmly put forward his argument to leave his own legacy on the shirt. Forming an incredible partnership with then young rising star Wayne Rooney, they took the Premier League by storm. Before leaving the club, Ronaldo had managed to collect 3 Premier League titles, a Champions League medal and a Ballon d’Or. His tenure at United could also be seen as the beginning of universal praise of his work ethic as his ex-teammates extolled his attitude towards training and emphasis on physical conditioning.
When Real Madrid came calling, he was well worth the then record fee of £80 million. Despite his success at United, there was still some criticism of the record move. Ronaldo answered that only the way he knows how to. During his 9-year sting at the Spanish club the team was built around him and his skillset, which resulted in an unprecedented dominance over European football. 4 Champions League trophies, 4 Ballon d’Or’s and 2 trophies with Portugal later, Ronaldo thoroughly wrote his name as a Real Madrid (and footballing) icon. And was that enough for the 33-year-old forward? Of course not. Ronaldo once again readied himself for another challenge by signing for Juventus.
Ronaldo without a doubt is one of the greatest players to ever play the game. His dedication towards training and maintaining his physic is almost mythical, with doctors regularly saying he could play for much longer. He joins a small list of athletes such as LeBron James who have heavily invested in their health in order to prolong their careers. It’s such a shame Arsenal didn’t sign him. Nevertheless, Ronaldo is one of my favourite players to ever play the game, and undoubtedly a GOAT.