Cristiano Ronaldo: 10 Defining Moments
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Not only is Cristiano Ronaldo the world’s most famous athlete, he also has the strongest social media presence in the world, not just in the category of athletes or even people, but out of all profiles. He went from being an outcast boy in Lisbon, Portugal, to a global icon thanks to his sublime soccer skills, and we take a look at the 10 biggest moments that defined the career of arguably the best player ever.
Which isn’t an easy task seeing how many records Ronaldo broke, how many things he pioneered, in how many big games he played, and how many trophies and personal accolades he lifted.
1. Red Devils Debut
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After seeing his strength in a friendly match between Sporting Lisbon and his Manchester United, legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson gave the sign to the club to sign the young Ronaldo. After a $24m transfer Ronaldo became the most expensive teenager at the time, so all eyes were on him since the moment he entered Old Trafford. The debut can truly show a lot, and while Ronaldo didn’t get on the scoresheet against Bolton on August 16, 2003, but he did get all United fans dreaming of what he will achieve. He managed to surpass their dreams.
2. Greek Tragedy
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Even in the stories of ultimate champions, not every moment is a win. Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro learned about the bitterness of failure the hardest way possible, by coming close to success and losing. Playing for Portugal national team on the Euro 2004 tournament, the host nation went all the way to the finals, and the generation boasting stars like Luis Figo, Deco, Pauleta, Rui Costa faced tiny Greece. Yet the bunker strategy of the Greeks gave them the win ultimately and it seemed like Ronaldo missed the best opportunity on an international trophy. It really seemed that way.
3. Moscow Seesaw
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One of the classics of the Champions League finals, at the height of English football might in 2008, pitted Manchester United and Chelsea competing for the Big Ears Cup. Moscow was the stage, and the players were indeed high-rollers of Europe, both having something to prove, but individually all weight was on Ronaldo. It was the United’s number 7 who opened the scoring, his trademark leap resulted in a header worthy of finals. The game went into penalties, and Ronaldo was the only player in red not to score, so John Terry’s famous slip was the biggest relief to Cristiano. Eventually, the Red Devils took Moscow in front of Roman Abramovich.
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One of the main arguments in the forever-heated debate about who’s better Ronaldo or Messi that goes to the side of the Portuguese is that Ronaldo is far more versatile. He’s stronger, better at heading the ball obviously, more two-footed and he has a longer range. The crown of his long-range shooting is the 2009 Champion League goal against Porto. At the aggregate score of 2:2 in favor of Porto, Ronaldo let go an arrow from over 40 yards and sent his team to the semi-finals. This goal earned him the 2009 FIFA Puskás award for the most beautiful goal of the year, and the man himself once said that this is his best goal.
5. El Rey
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After six seasons, 292 matches, 118 memorable goals, three Premier Leagues, three Liga Cups, one FA Cup, one CL, one World Cup, it was time for the boy from Madeira to move closer to home and to fulfill a childhood dream – to play for Real Madrid. The Spanish club is the biggest club on the planet, no questions asked, and they managed to make sure Ronaldo spends his prime years playing in their white shirts. But it wasn’t cheap. Real paid the record-breaking sum of $132 million for the goalscorer in 2009, a ludicrous sum that paid off probably ten times over with success and commercial income CR7 brought. This might not be the biggest transfer anymore in terms of money, but is still the biggest transfer overall, and will remain that way.
6. Clash of Titans
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In the race for the 2014 World Cup in Brasil, the biggest soccer celebration ever, Portugal took the longer, harder route but it brought a better story. After not going through directly through the group, Ronaldo’s Portugal faces Sweden and Zlatan Ibrahimović in the World Cup Qualifiers two-match spectacle. The first round went to the Portuguese at home, thanks to a single Ronaldo goal. The goal-scoring machine opened the tally in Sweden too, but Ibrakadabra did his magic and responded with two goals in four minutes, and the whole of Portugal was shaking. The best of the nation brought them peace with two clinical goals in just two minutes, pointing to the pitch calmly after both, proclaiming “I’m here, you have me”, and that there’s no reason to fear. The boy became a leader in one of the most matured performances of his career, stepping up when it was needed the most.
7. Copa del Cristiano
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A Spanish cup final, but a European classic, as Barcelona had Pep Guardiola and Messi on its side, and Real was represented by Jose Mourinho and Cristiano Ronaldo. But one man stole the show eventually, and you guessed it – it was Ronaldo. The battle went over into extra time, and with his signature, time-stopping header where he floats in the air, Ronaldo sealed the victory in the 103′ minute. It was a first Madrid Copa del Rey trophy after incredible 17 years! And if there was any doubt, Ronaldo was officially crowned as the king of the King’s club.
8. La Decima
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If there was any doubt at all whether Real Madrid is the biggest club in the world, it vanished 2013–14 UEFA Champions League final when the Blancos defeated city rivals Atletico Madrid 4:1, in a game that was way more suspenseful and harder than what the result suggests. Finally, the mythical La Decima was reached, Real won the CL for the 10th time, a record that will probably be just theirs for decades. Ronaldo scored the fourth goal for his team when it was all decided, but he was undeniably the star player of the historic team, and he also had the perfect stage for this gigantic success – the stadium of Benfica, the biggest rival of his first club Sporting Lisbon.
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Whatever your stance about statistics in soccer is, there’s no denying the strength of sheer numbers Ronaldo put out in his career, and there is no impressive one than scoring 48 times in the Primera’s 2014/2015 season. No other player besides Messi and Suarez has ever passed the 35 goal mark in La Liga, and 35 is truly monumentally impressive, 48 is out of this world. Winning Ballon d’Or four times is great, and so is 17 goals in a single Champions League season, but this 48-goals run is the biggest number in CR7’s career.
10. Winning the Euro
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Redemption. Dream. Catharsis. After 12 years of pain and regret, Portugal finally gave the nation fitting therapy and won the European Championship. This time, Cristiano Ronaldo was the only star of the team, and nobody gave Portugal much chance to win, yet they did what was done to them and defeated the host nation in the finals. CR7 was instrumental in the road to the finals, especially in the group stage against Hungary, yet he was injured and let the field in the 25′ minute of the biggest game of his life. After his teammates secured the victory Ronaldo celebrated like never before, redeeming himself for the La Decima celebration where he was rightfully accused of not celebrating teammates’ goals, only his own. Cristiano Ronaldo movie was the reason for this, but there’s no excuse.
The EURO was also a huge tipping of the scale, as the phrase that both Messi and Ronaldo never did anything on the international stage now only stands for the Argentinian, who even has an easier path for it.
What are some of your favorite Cristiano Ronaldo moments?