Introducing the penultimate player in the Top 50 players in the world – Cristiano Ronaldo. Welcome Anam Hassan to wax lyrical on the Real Madrid and Portugal phenomenon.
View the longlist and voting process here.
Part 1 (50-41): 50 Ezequiel Lavezzi, 49 Thomas Muller, 48 Joe Hart, 47 Hulk, 46 Franck Ribery, 45 Juan Mata, 44 Phillip Lahm, 43 Roberto Soldado, 42 Arjen Robben, 41 Mats Hummels
Part 2 (40-31): 40 Gonzalo Higuain, 39 Alexis Sanchez, 38 Nani, 37 Karim Benzema, 36 Victor Valdes, 35 Gareth Bale, 34 Sergio Busquets, 33 Manuel Neuer, 32 Falcao, 31 Antonio Di Natale
Part 3 (30-21): 30 David Villa, 29 Eden Hazard, 28 Angel Di Maria, 27 Iker Casillas, 26 Luka Modric, 25 Wesley Sneijder, 24 Yaya Toure, 23 Mario Gomez, 22 Mario Gotze, 21 Xabi Alonso
Part 4 (20-11): 20 Nemanja Vidic, 19 Vincent Kompany, 18 Mesut Ozil, 17 Thiago Silva, 16 Daniel Alves, 15 Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 14 Bastian Schweinsteiger, 13 Luis Suarez, 12 Neymar, 11 Sergio Aguero
Part 5 (10-4): 10 Edinson Cavani, 9 Cesc Fabregas, 8 Gerard Pique, 7 Wayne Rooney, 6 David Silva, 5 Robin van Persie, 4 Andres Iniesta
Part 6 (3): Xavi Hernandez
2 Cristiano Ronaldo
Real Madrid & Portugal (▲5th – 2533 points)
It will be looked back as the defining battle of an era which was best encapsulated by the climax to the 2010/11 season. Lionel Messi had just scored a hat-trick to condemn Atlético Madrid to a 5-0 defeat, taking Barcelona 10 points clear at the top. The title may have been, at this point, put beyond Real Madrid’s reach but for Cristiano Ronaldo, there was one particular trophy he had his eye on: the Golden Shoe. In the next game, and having fallen two goals behind Messi, he plundered a phenomenal 15 shots at the Real Sociedad goal and in the process, scoring the two goals required to take him level. The rest of the season was seen as a battle between the pair to see who would become top goalscorer as effectively, Barca had sewn up the title. Crucially, Messi eased up to ensure that was the case. Ronaldo, on the other hand, raced ahead and by the end of the season, by some distance, sealed the Pichichi and the coveted Golden Shoe with 40 goals.
The battle summed up the two characters; Messi, a sublime player, capable of breathtaking individual moments but overwhelmingly a team player. Ronaldo, a sublime player, capable of breathtaking individual moments but overwhelmingly a player who plays for himself first. When Ronaldo received the Golden Shoe he said: “this [the Golden Shoe] is objective, about statistics; that [the Golden Ball won by Messi], is about votes, opinions.”
However, the narcissism of Cristiano Ronaldo shouldn’t be seen as a criticism. Jose Mourinho’s allows him to play as an individual because as an individual, he is able to elevate the results of a team with such effectiveness, showing the signs of a truly world class player. His 40 goals last season took him to new heights and although it’d be hard to match that again this season, he improbably looks like he might go even better having, at the half-way stage, scored 21 goals. Ronaldo’s endless desire for self-self-fulfilment – self-improvement even – might catapult his star far above any of his team-mates but it must be remembered that his goals also kept Real Madrid fighting last season. This season, he has been scape-goated by a section of the Madristas for their inability to catch Barcelona. As their best player, he should view it as compliment because Ronaldo perhaps stands as the best chance of that happening. Or, as some argue, he might be holding them back. After all, there are many faces at Madrid but at times, it seems as if he is Madrid.
For Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo plays that au courant role to the wide-left of the attack which is neither a winger or a striker nor does it carry the concomitant responisbilites a playmaker does. Recent incumbents of the role show it to be a selfish position – Robinho and Andrey Arshavin for example – and/or heavily subsidised, stripped of tracking back and tasked simply with the brief of “BEING DEVASTATING!” Neymar of Santos might be Ronaldo’s next challenger but he must first reach the lofty benchmark Ronaldo has set. At the time of writing, the Portuguese has scored 112 goals in 118 games, at an average of 0.95 goals per game (better than Ferenc Puskas), with 12 of them being hat-tricks (in the league) and has made 21 assists. With statistics like that, he can’t just be the ultimate luxury player; he’s absolutelyfuckingcrucial. Besides, he’s already shown he can cut it in two of the toughest leagues and in has taken on even greater responsibility in the national side, leading Portugal to Euro 2012 as captain.
Ronaldo was at his most devastating best in 2011 in the 6-2 win over Sevilla, causing havoc with his speed and power and creating a shark-like muscular ripple each of the three times he hit the back of the net. However, if you had to choose a short clip to highlight what Cristiano Ronaldo is about in a microcosm, then his goal in the 3-1 win over Ajax in this season’s Champions League best captures that. As Mesut Ozil picks up the ball following an Ajax corner, Ronaldo on the centre circle, suddenly springs to life. He then proceeds to play two quick passes – bam! bam! – which opens up space for Ozil to find Karim Benzema on the right. Benzema centres it and it’s met by Ronaldo to emphatically hit it first-time past the goalkeeper. In 13 seconds the ball ends up from one end to the other and as Ronaldo runs away to celebrate, he knows he’s partaken in one of the competition’s best ever goals. Ronaldo is the counter-attacking ideologue for Real Madrid and once again he’s the one who finishes off the moves.
Messi might be the defining player of the generation due to the way he breaks convention. Ronaldo, though, defines the generation. Powerful, fast, skilful: the complete player. – if the modern game’s fixation on conditioning has a means to an end, it’d be Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Top 50 is in association with the Art of Pele.
Edson Arantes do Nascimento, or Pelé as he is known across the world, is considered to be the greatest footballer the world has ever seen – the youngest player ever to win a World Cup (three in total); scorer of 1,283 professional goals – 12 of them in World Cup final tournaments; and “Athlete of the Century”, awarded by the International Olympic Committee in 1999.
In celebration of his achievements Pelé has created a colourful series of artwork that capture the many special moments throughout his truly legendary career. Each piece interprets the significance of defining moments in his life, translating them into vibrant and colourful images. The Art of Pelé brings his story to life – on canvas. Find out more by visiting www.artofpele.com.