Cristiano Ronaldo seeking one final hurrah at Euro 2020
Cristiano Ronaldo seeking one final hurrah with the Portugal captain desperate to lead his team to glory in the Euros again… as he looks to break Michel Platini’s goalscoring record in fifth appearance at the finals
- Cristiano Ronaldo will appear in his fifth European Championship this summer
- The Portugal captain has played more games in the finals than any other player
- The forward’s 10th goal would see him beak Michel Platini’s goalscoring record
- Ronaldo is desperate to lead his country to glory after lifting the trophy in 2016
- Find out the latest Euro 2020 news including fixtures, live action and results here.
At some point, even those who appear immortal are forced to acknowledge the passage of time.
Cristiano Ronaldo has willed the clock to stop far longer than many but the Portuguese great now leads his country into a European Championship that must surely be his last.
At 36, this will be his fifth finals, a record. He’s played more games in the finals, 21, than anyone else. His 31 goals in qualifying are the most in history. No one has scored more at the finals and one more, his 10th, would take him beyond Michel Platini.
Cristiano Ronaldo is looking to lead Portugal to glory in the Euros again after winning the competition in 2016
But, as always with Ronaldo, a man so obsessed with winning, he wants more.
Five years ago, he had sat on the grass at the Stade de France, tears in his eyes and a moth on his face. It was 25 minutes into the final and Portugal’s captain left the pitch on a stretcher.
He spent the rest of the game bellowing from the touchline, willing his team-mates on. ‘He was calling out all the players, every name,’ recalls Nani in a new BBC documentary, Ronaldo: Impossible to Ignore. ‘I think almost everyone felt his presence on the touchline.’
Ronaldo had waited so long to atone for Portugal’s shock defeat by Greece in the final 12 years earlier. Ronaldo had stood on the pitch in tears that day too.
The forward left the pitch on a stretcher during the final against France but spent the rest of the game bellowing from the touchline
This time, they did it. Eder scored the winner in injury time and Ronaldo lifted the trophy. He wants to do it again.
Portugal start as one of the favourites, with the likes of Ruben Dias and Bruno Fernandes lighting up a glittering squad.
If they triumph at Wembley, Ronaldo will join Iker Casillas as the only man to have captained a team to two European Championships. He’d be the first player to have featured in three finals.
That image we have of Ronaldo, legs apart, arms wide, is one we have seen for so long that it feels as though it’s always been this way.
Yet what makes Ronaldo’s legacy so remarkable is that his place in the pantheon is a product of his own doing — the result of his will, his belief, his dedication. It has not been easy.
The residents of Quinta do Falcao, the street in Funchal, Madeira where Ronaldo grew up, still remember him as the skinny kid who broke windows with footballs and ran away.
He infuriated the neighbourhood because his mother, Maria Dolores, always refused to pay for the damage. She ignored notes from teachers complaining of his lack of effort in school. That doesn’t matter, she used to say. Her son would become a professional footballer.
That wasn’t cast in stone, though. He moved to Sporting Lisbon as a spotty 12-year-old with a weird accent. It was tough and there were doubts.
Ronaldo has always hated losing and was desperate to atone of Portugal’s defeat in 2004
‘It was very, very hard for him,’ Fernao Barros Sousa, Ronaldo’s godfather, tells The Mail on Sunday. ‘All his family and friends were in Funchal. He didn’t know anybody in Lisbon and other kids made fun of him because his face was full of pimples. He told his mother he wanted to go home. I don’t know how many times I had to talk him out of giving up.
‘Also, people in Lisbon like to make fun of the way Madeirans talk, very quick. Cristiano learned how to talk like someone from Lisbon. For hours and hours, in front of a mirror, he practised until his accent became imperceptible.’
When he arrived at Manchester United, he got Mick Clegg, the club’s power development coach, to help him turn that bag of bones into the colossus we see now.
‘This young lad turns up and said, “I’ve heard about the work you’ve done. I’m going to be the best player in the world”,’ says Clegg in the new documentary.
‘I remember how Ronaldo cried every time he lost a match,’ said Pedro Talhinhas, youth coach at Madeira club Nacional. ‘His sadness was so deep because he loved winning so much.
‘The first time I saw him was in a kids’ tournament. My team knocked his out of the cup and there was this skinny kid crying his eyes out in the middle of the field. Yet he was head and shoulders above everyone else.’
Even when his Real Madrid team-mates celebrated their 10th European title, known as La Decima, in 2014, Ronaldo was too distracted to join in.
The forward worked on his strength and power to become one of the best players in the world
‘The atmosphere’s just incredible and then I saw a small group of players — Marcelo, Pepe and Cristiano,’ said Paul Clement, then Real’s assistant coach. ‘I had to ask Cristiano what they were talking about. He said, “We’re talking about how next year we have to come back and win it again”. I thought, wow!’
Mario Jardel, the ex-Brazil striker, played with Ronaldo at Sporting. ‘The first thing I noticed was his politeness,’ he said. ‘But it didn’t take long to realise that he was an absolute beast. He wanted to train non-stop.
‘He was curious too. When I see his heading nowadays, I feel proud because I know he learned a thing or two from me.
‘He never talked too much but everyone knew there was something in him. Something special. I didn’t know what it was at the time. But now I know, of course’.
We all know. Ronaldo turned himself from a bullied, skinny kid into one of the greats. His time on the big stage may be nearly done but Ronaldo knows he can write more history before it’s over.
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