Nothing left to prove

What’s your definition of legendary? Is it the ability to do things no one else can? What about continued excellence over many years? Or maybe, an athlete becomes legendary the moment their name becomes synonymous with greatness and celebration. For Cristiano Ronaldo, that recognition comes regularly, but it was magnified yesterday when he had an entire stadium chanting his name after completing a hat-trick.

Ronaldo led Portugal to a 3-1 victory in the UEFA Nations League semifinals against Switzerland on home turf at the Estadio do Dragaõ in Porto and turned in a customarily brilliant performance. His first goal came by outsmarting the Swiss defense with his footwork and earning a free kick. The ensuing shot was a classic Ronaldo dipper that stopped the opposing goalkeeper in his tracks, thanks to the ball’s deceptive left-to-right-to-left movement, ending up in the bottom right-hand corner. The second came as he trailed the run of play, and received a perfectly set-up assist to slot the ball into the bottom right-hand corner. The third, a Ronaldo coup-de-grâce, was a goal of his own creation, complete with his signature step-over and line-drive shot that ended up, once again, in the bottom right-hand corner.

Throughout his career, Cristiano Ronaldo has made it a habit of turning in breathtaking performances by overwhelming the opposition with his unparalleled skills. One of Ronaldo’s most memorable goals also came in the Estadio do Dragaõ, by way of a 45-yard bullet of a shot in Champions League competition against the resident club, FC Porto, a goal he has described as the best he has ever scored. Also, just last year, Ronaldo scored a ridiculous bicycle kick goal in Turin, Italy against Juventus that made even the opposing fans applaud.

The interesting thing about Ronaldo is that there are moments before he scores when you know that he will score. Simply put, it’s understood on those occasions that there’s nothing his opponents can do to prevent him from scoring, something that has set him apart. In 2014, Ronaldo led Real Madrid against FC Schalke 04 in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Even though it was an away match, the expectation was that Ronaldo would show up big. Each of his three goals that day came with his customary dominance, accompanied by the usual helplessness of his opponents, who could nothing except watch as Ronaldo’s glorious step-over sent them to their doom. Even in the case of Lionel Messi, the only player who could even consider himself to be Ronaldo’s equal, his goals do not always come with the confidence that Ronaldo’s do.

But perhaps the best part about this is that Cristiano Ronaldo has made a habit of making sure some of his best performances come on the international stage for the country his loves so dearly. This is something that not even his chief rival Messi, who has been constantly maligned for his lackluster performances for Argentina, can say.

As perhaps Portugal’s greatest export, Cristiano Ronaldo, at the ripe age of 34, still dominates as if he was a decade younger, a fact that only strengthens his case as the best. And judging by yesterday’s crowd in Porto, chanting his name in unison, they agree.

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