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article imageOp-Ed: Why Cristiano Ronaldo's impact on the game shouldn't be ignored

By Tyrrell Meertins     Nov 21, 2014 in Sports
Cristiano Ronaldo is the most in-form player in world football. There, I said it. In the midst of using analytics and statistics to prove why Lionel Messi is superior to the current crop of stars in the modern game, Ronaldo’s brilliance is undeniable.
It’s believed that perfection is nearly impossible to attain, but Ronaldo nearly defies that logic. From his well-groomed slicked back hair, to his well-maintained chiseled physique, and the shrewd ability to score goals for fun, at 29, the Madeira born star has stamped his foot in the history of this beautiful game.
At one point, it appeared that this moment of genuine excellence would never occur. The exasperating scrawny boy that plied his trade at Sporting Lisbon, before dropping jaws at Euro 2004, wasn’t supposed to be this good; sure the potential was there, but this good? Never.
The dazzling step overs were seen and utilized in the past, but not with this efficiency and power. Likewise, the confidence and pace that comes with every stride wasn’t delivered prior with such passion and precision.
Ultimately, that’s what sets Ronaldo apart from nearly every attacking player in world football. Not only does he look better than most, he represents the ideal complete attacker. Head, left foot, right foot, back heel, tap-in, shot from distance, and you can include the occasional free kick – he does it all. At his best, he’s nearly unstoppable, as he mesmerizes the crowd with every shift of his body and powerful sprint.
Ronaldo will be the hot topic of discussion over the next few weeks as the Ballon d’Or banter is set to dominate every football conversation around the world. It was this time last year that Messi’s injuries were distinct, and the Portuguese star elevated his game to claim the award for the second time. The debate between the two players is expected to grow in prominence, but the Portuguese star’s 23 goals in 17 games – in all competitions – sets a standard that Messi and the German World Cup winners will likely find insurmountable.
Over the past few years, I intentionally engaged myself in these futile debates with the intention of identifying why – excluding pride, patriotism, and club attachment – the casual fan appreciates Ronaldo above the rest. Talent and versatility in regards to scoring goals were mentioned repeatedly, but one comment stood out from the bunch.
“In my eyes, I accept and appreciate greatness that is worked for,” said the interviewee. “Cristiano Ronaldo worked for his greatness and that’s why I admire him and prefer him more than any other player. His work ethic got him where he is today.”
Although every player to an extent has to work hard to reach the highest level of football, Ronaldo’s commitment on the training ground separates him from the rest. More so, the battle he endured growing up in poverty, along with losing his father at a young age to alcoholism presents the harshly ridiculed star in a different light.
Very few could honestly admit that they expected Ronaldo to define a football generation. He was a work of art that had room for improvement, but with so many young talents falling through the cracks, Ronaldo’s success wasn’t guaranteed.
The frail wonder kid was blessed with pace and trickery, yet through his teenage years he only appeared interested in himself – however, his determination to be on the ball at all times and win games earned respect from others on the pitch.
Ronaldo may have gained recognition at Sporting, but it was at Manchester United where he brought his game to a new level. Rene Meulensteen worked on Ronaldo’s mentality, demeanour, and goal-scoring instinct on the training ground, whilst Sir Alex Ferguson provided the Portuguese forward the platform and positional freedom to thrive at Old Trafford.
Within a flash, the Portuguese forward transitioned from being teased at a young age for his thick Madeiran accent, to winning bets with Sir Alex Ferguson – arguably the greatest football manager in the game’s history – on how many goals he would score per season.
Amongst adversity, the hunger and drive to improve epitomizes Ronaldo. If he were a businessman he would be a billionaire. If he became a doctor he would likely cure cancer. If he had an interest in baking, he would make soft, luscious cakes. But football was Ronaldo’s passion, and the countless hours of work devoted to his trade reaped rewards.
With every passing season, Ronaldo was getting faster, stronger, and scoring more goals. His move to Madrid solidified his childhood dream of playing for the biggest club in the history of football, and Ronaldo hasn’t looked back since. Ronaldo has tallied 275 Madrid goals in 263 games for the Spanish giants, whilst claiming every team and major individual award possible in England and Spain – including La Decima and the Ballon d’Or. But for all the goals, trophies, and one million Facebook followers – the most of any professional athlete – we tend to overlook the additional qualities that the Portuguese icon possesses.
The Portuguese star previously stated in an interview that he preferred to train hard and do well opposed to enjoying the glamorous nightlife like his friends and teammates. Often the last player off the training ground, many have spoken highly about Ronaldo’s determination to be the best, and his consistency over the past decade speaks volumes.
That’s the type of person Ronaldo is.
Often wrongly labeled as conceited and arrogant, Ronaldo doesn’t speak or brag about his greatness. He monopolizes the talent that he’s spent immeasurable hours fine-tuning to perfection to silence the cynics. He’s a dark assassin on the pitch, constantly looking for gaps and weaknesses in the opposition’s back-line to exploit. He’s silent – unless a call doesn’t go his way – but lethal when he receives time and space to operate. His determination to be the best motivates him to get better, and the rivalry – basically based between football fans – with Messi was also beneficial.
With both superstars on the verge of breaking Raul’s Champions League goal record – Messi recently equaled the Spaniard’s haul of 71 – Ronaldo’s eagerness to surpass the feat was evident against Liverpool at the Santiago Bernabeu. Meanwhile, with Messi’s goal tally depreciating – due to his new role as Barcelona’s chief playmaker, whilst making up for the deficiencies in his side’s midfield – Ronaldo’s has seized the opportunity to build on his superiority.
"Obviously everybody has their own opinion but I want to be the best of all time and I will try and make that happen,” Ronaldo stated when he received the Golden Shoe Prize for last season.
“Everybody has their opinion but in my head I want to be the best and I'll get there. I'm writing my own history step by step. When I retire I want to see if I'm among the best of all time and I'm certain I will be.”
But while Ronaldo will largely be remembered for his goals, the 29-year-old’s legacy as one of the best players to play the game won’t rest solely on those laurels. While the quirky smile and theatric celebrations leave many disliking the Portuguese star, his development over the past decade makes him the ideal role model for this generation.
Young players can learn from Ronaldo’s hardship as a youth and his commitment to improve his game on a daily basis. He’s the type of player that would spend a few extra hours following a full training to strap weights to his legs and complete step overs with the ball; put simply, the Portuguese superstar embodies hard work.
Sadly, Ronaldo is misunderstood. The 29-year-old is a firm religious believer that simply wants to win more trophies and provide happiness for his friends and family .
“I always had a gift. I was shown the skills and I am a fantastic footballer but I do believe God gave me the gift,” stated Ronaldo in an interview with the Mirror.
In hindsight, his involvement in the game is widely discounted. Ronaldo’s brilliance is currently underappreciated, and to an extent, like Messi, he’s slightly underrated. Often forced to sit in Messi’s shadow in the past, Ronaldo’s influence on the game has been overlooked. The Portuguese captain is currently co-defining an era that will be talked about years from now, and for the time being, the spot light currently rests on him.
While Messi will likely go down as the greatest player to play the game, Ronaldo’s role in history shouldn’t be downplayed. His form since joining Madrid has been illustrious, and as he slowly approaches 30, it’s difficult to predict whether he’ll slow down soon.
Nevertheless, the trophies, success and shattered records, empower admirers of the game to push harder to attain their goals. When Ronaldo succeeds, we succeed. When the Portuguese star scores, we score as well. If Ronaldo could be successful, we can too. For with every passing day Ronaldo improves, it gives us hope that we can achieve our goals.
Perhaps Ronaldo’s commitment and work ethic personifies the love of the game, and for that we shouldn’t take his dominance for granted.
Cherish his greatness while you can, because we won’t have him forever.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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