By Paul Ronan
We should embrace these belated Euro championship because they could be the last time we see Cristiano Ronaldo on a big stage.
While the World Cup in Qatar comes up next year – in fact it is in 17 months time November 2022 – there is no denying that at Juventus over the past few years, we have seen the dying of the light when it comes to this Portuguese sensation who has graced our television screensfor the best part of two decades.
Yes, he can still score penalties and free kicks but his contribution from open play is diminishing with each passing season.
The Ronaldo from the last two seasons at Manchester United or the first six at Real Madrid we will never see again. However, what we should hope for over the coming weeks is to get glimpses of that rare cheeky step-over talent – and if we do, we should be thankful as his like only comes once in a lifetime.
Like Messi alongside him in the record books, the goalscorer supreme continues to shatter previous records set by stars such as Michel Platini when it comes to the Euros – the second biggest competition for international players in this side of the world.
Ronaldo led Portugal to the Euro title five years ago and now the 36-year-old will seek to do it again. Should he succeed, there should be a coronation making him the King of the Euros.
For a start, he has played in more games than anyone who has gone before and on top of that he managed to score more goals than all his predecessors.
Here are some stats – currently he is the joint top scorer in the history of these championships. Across the 21 games he has been involved with in four separate tournaments up to this currrent one, he stands alone, having scored in all four championships.
And he shares with Platini as the leading scorer with both having netted nine times. The Frenchman scored all his goals in five games during the 1984 tournament and in fact never performed at another in his glittering career.
Ronaldo’s spread goes from 2004 as a 19-year-old to five years ago, when he was 31.
Six of his strikes arrived at the group stages, with one in the Euro 2012 quarter-final and two in semi-finals – against the Netherlands in 2004 and Wales in 2016.
As if all that wasn’t enough, Ronaldo is also the top goalscorer during the qualifying games for European Championships. His 31 goals on top of his nine strikes at finals themselves means he has 40 Euro related goals in all.
What many people forget is that neither Messi and Ronaldo – the stand out players of their generation and arguably any generation – had done well at major championships for their countries. In fact, it was only in 2016 when Ronaldo finally got his hands on a major trophy – The European Championship when his side beat France in Paris. This sort of experience has eluded the Argentinian so far in his otherwise stellar career.
Depending on how the next few weeks go, the Portuguse star could yet join an august list to win two Euro titles, and if he gets to a final, he will become the first player to appear in the final three times.