On Tuesday, Cristiano Ronaldo opened Real Madrid’s second-leg UCL quarterfinal match against VfL Wolfsburg with two goals in the opening 17 minutes to erase the 2-0 aggregate lead Wolfsburg had coming into the match.
He then completed his hat trick in the 77th minute to secure a dominant home win and a trip to the semifinals for Real Madrid.
It was yet another remarkable UCL performance from Ronaldo, who continues to astonish fans every time Lionel Messi seems to definitively win the “best player in the world” argument.
Most avid football supporters have come around to the idea that Messi simply does things on the field that no other human being can do. But where game effectiveness is concerned, Ronaldo keeps making his case again and again.
If the argument were about who you’d rather have in a must-win match, as opposed to who’s the most skilled, many might lean toward Ronaldo.
So to give the Portuguese star his due in the aftermath of another stunning performance, I wanted to delve into his methods and habits a little bit and try to determine just what makes him so good.
The truth is nobody knows—and that likely includes Ronaldo himself—but I’ve taken a stab at some of the underlying reasons for his consistency and dominance.
It’s hard to really know if someone has an inherent sense of pride if you don’t know them, but some stories from Cristiano Ronaldo’s past indicate that he certainly does.
Boomsbeat, a site dedicated to all things interesting regarding sports, culture, and entertainment, did a write-up of 50 interesting things about Ronaldo, and it included a few anecdotes that illustrate his strong sense of pride and self-worth.
For instance, it’s said Ronaldo would cry if his teammates failed to convert his good passes. He also supposedly got expelled from school after throwing a chair because a teacher disrespected him.
These may not be admirable traits or actions in the traditional sense, but they show a person who, even as a young boy, despised being slighted or disrespected. That’s a valuable trait in an elite athlete.
In general, it seems like an odd practice to give one professional footballer an edge over another due to fitness. But Cristiano Ronaldo is in rare, if not unprecedented, territory when it comes to personal fitness.
He’s considered to be akin to celebrated Olympians from a physical standpoint, and this gives him an edge over even other professional football players.
Lottery platform Lottoland, in addition to offering entry to the Euromillions games, occasionally writes up interesting articles about rich and famous characters. And recently, it posted an article about the rituals of professional athletes.
It’s a small thing, but in that article it was mentioned that Ronaldo is superstitious about putting his right foot on the grass first when taking the field for a match. Many sports figures have their own superstitions and rituals, but it’s a fairly common trait among the greats.
Consider LeBron James’s habit of launching chalk into the air before games, or Rafael Nadal’s tendency to brush his hair back before each serve. Ritual is part of repetition, and the best athletes practice repetition to the point of near perfection.
Ego is one of the reasons a lot of football fans prefer Messi to Ronaldo. There’s little doubt that on some level Messi possesses a pretty large ego of his own, but he doesn’t allow it to define his persona.
That’s fine for a few rare great athletes, but most of the best ones are pretty openly egotistical, to the point where you have to wonder if letting go of inhibitions about self-importance allows them to chase greatness more effectively.
Consider the popular favourites for greatest living athletes in their respective sports: LeBron James in basketball, Novak Djokovic in tennis, Bryce Harper in baseball, Floyd Mayweather in boxing… All of them have very healthy, unabashed egos.
Rare figures like Stephen Curry, Roger Federer (who has a different sort of ego, but maintains humility), and as mentioned Messi are able to tone things down, but for the most part an unsuppressed ego seems to help.
Team attitude and ego don’t always go hand-in-hand, and indeed many perceive Ronaldo as being more about himself than his team’s success.
But that doesn’t explain how well he tends to thrive when his team needs him most, nor does it explain Sir Alex Ferguson’s claim that Ronaldo once cried on the floor after missing a crucial penalty in the 2008 Champions League.
Say what you will about his apparent attitude, but a portion of Ronaldo’s greatness appears to come from a desire to propel his teams to new heights.
No matter where you stand on the Ronaldo vs. Messi debate, this man continues to astonish. It’s clear he has some rare, intangible gifts for football at the highest level. But these, I believe, are also the reasons he’s become such a force.