The scene was repeated on several occasions over the course of the last few seasons. Real Madrid winning comfortably against their opponents, 3-0, 4-0 or even 4-1. The players of both teams on the pitch knew the match was decided, and were happy to see it out to the final whistle. Not Cristiano Ronaldo.
He hadn’t managed to score yet and was making a fuss, protesting decisions, lamenting missed chances or poor passes from his teammates, essentially creating another match for himself in pursuit of a goal. The Portuguese forward would look like a mixture of anxiousness and derangement, all part of his hyper-motivated state to score a goal, despite already having the team victory in the bag.
For him, the game isn’t finished until he has scored, that’s Cristiano fever.
This intense drive and desire provoke ironic and derogatory comments from rival supporters, even sometimes his own fans, who for years made fun of his intensity.
These very same Madridistas watched on Tuesday night with nostalgia as Cristiano fever struck again, this time in the black and white stripes of Juventus. He destroyed Atletico Madrid’s European dreams for the fifth time in the last six seasons.
As a result of his exhibition in Turin, any doubts about Ronaldo in the Champions League have dissipated. This is the tournament which he places above all others, he reigns undisputedly, even over Lionel Messi.
Supporters have recounted his goals, in the group stage, knockout stage and against Atletico Madrid. It’s not an accident that in the most demanding tournament, and the tournament where mistakes are punished the most, Ronaldo shines. He’s the biggest competitor in world football, he has the same obsessive dedication he always has.
At 34 years old, Ronaldo continues to put absolutely everything into achieving his overall goal. He has changed his position, redefined his playing style and looked at ways he can improve his physical preparation by reducing training workloads. All of this with one objective, to be prepared for the day when he is required to assume all responsibility and carry his team to a victory.
I still think that Cristiano’s departure from Real Madrid was as much down to Real Madrid as Ronaldo, in this case it was Florentino Perez. Neither one nor the other knew how to redirect the situation in time, and unfulfilled promises and disloyalties were digging away at the fabric of the relationship long before the Kiev final and its embarrassing epilogue.
I am clear that Perez’s biggest mistake was not simply fully appreciating what would be lost with Ronaldo’s exit. It wasn’t just 50 goals per season, but they were also losing ambition in abundance. They were losing leadership and an individual who cultivated and headed a culture of self-demand. Real Madrid were losing everything that defined Cristiano Ronaldo.