Cristiano Ronaldo scored against Morocco in a 1-0 victory, putting Portugal on the verge of the knockout stage. Shutterstock.com
Cristiano Ronaldo’s toughest task may not have been climbing the youth system in Portugal and eventually signing a contract with Manchester United, but rather earning the interest of his mother in his soccer career.
Just a few months ago, many were ready to write Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo off after an apparent "decline," citing old age as the reason. His goal scoring form dipped, Real Madrid saw itself out of the domestic trophy race as early as November and eliminated from Copa del Rey by a mid-table team.
Was it time for Ronaldo to hang up the boots?
Fast forward to today and there is a new question being asked: Is Ronaldo the greatest player of all time?
Ronaldo has made the Champions League, Europe's most prestigious and difficult soccer competition, his personal playground. In the Champions League he holds the records for: most goals (120), most goals in a single season (17), most finals won (5), only player to score in three finals, only player to score in all six group stage games, only player to score in 11 consecutive Champions League games.
To put it in perspective, if Ronaldo was a club he would be tenth on the all-time scoring list in the Champions League. What's more, he does all this in style. His overhead kick against Juventus was such an outstanding display of skill and athleticism that he became one of the few players in history to receive a standing ovation in a rival stadium.
On his journey to becoming a global icon, Ronaldo’s toughest task may not have been climbing the youth system in Portugal and eventually signing a contract with Manchester United, but rather earning the interest of his mother in his soccer career.
According to Ronaldo in an article he wrote for The Player’s Tribune, as a young player he would look to the sidelines only to see his father there. Even when he and his father, Aveiro, would come home and tell his mother and sister about Ronaldo’s successes on the pitch, there was still a vacant spot waiting for them on the sidelines.
Eventually, however, Ronaldo’s soccer skills became a must-watch phenomenon and his mother and sister finally obliged. Ronaldo describes his proudest day as a player as the one that he finally looked over and saw his mother and sister in the stands, and he often looks back at that moment with nostalgia.
Following the family triumph, Ronaldo moved to Lisbon at the age of 11 to pursue his soccer career, and he had to grow up in a hurry. Though his family provided moral support, his father’s return from army service in Angola brought problems for the family, as Aveiro struggled to stay sober and to find work.
For the young Ronaldo, alone in Lisbon, the transition was difficult. The culture and accent were completely different from his hometown, Madiera, and he was often made fun of for the way he talked. Instead of giving up, however, Ronaldo pressed on.
He decided to train after practice for his youth team and would sneak out of his dormitory to hone his craft. The hard work paid off and then some. In 2002, at the age of 17, Ronaldo signed his first pro contract, and the following season he was awarded with a transfer to Manchester United, one of the most prestigious clubs in the world.
Despite his gaudy club numbers, it is clear that Ronaldo is not just a club player. On the international stage Ronaldo is the all-time top goal scorer for Portugal and is currently the third-highest international goal scorer of all-time, two goals behind second-place Farenc Puskás. He's participated in eight major tournaments: four UEFA European Championships (2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016), three FIFA World Cups (2006, 2010 and 2014) and one FIFA Confederations Cup (2017) and scored in them all.
Love him or hate him, Ronaldo is impossible to ignore. He's entertaining, effective, knows how to put on a show and, above all, knows how to win. In international competitions he averages 0.94 goals per match, a number that says more than words ever could.
Ronaldo and Portugal faces off against Iran, Morocco and Spain in this year's World Cup. And while moving on to the next round will be no easy feat, there isn't a better man for the job than the one who led Portugal to its first EUFA European Championship in 2016.
After having thoroughly conquered the rest of the soccer world, it’s now clear the FIFA World Cup is the only jewel left to place on Ronaldo’s ever-growing crown.