With each passing day, the footballing world has been revelling in the longevity of Cristiano Ronaldo. At 33, the Portuguese striker will head to Russia for his fourth finals as one of the top strikers ready to claim the limelight if not the Golden Boot by the time the 2018 Fifa World Cup ends on July 15.
Ronaldo burst onto the scene with Manchester United way back in 2003 when he was barely 18. Football has been, and will be, his top priority. And the lad from Funchal, Madeira, has zealously guarded his health so that he can continue playing at the top-most level.
He is the current holder of the Ballon D’or, and should he find his stride, he may end up with the coveted award for the top scorer of the competition.
I don’t know if I can win a sixth [Ballon d’Or] next year. There are so many competitions to play in the next year with Real Madrid and Portugal. The World Cup will be crucial in the running of the Ballon d’Or.”
- Cristiano Ronaldo | Portuguese striker
Known for his versatility, Ronaldo is capable of playing anywhere and, with a lethal combination of speed, acceleration and agility, he is a nightmare for any defence. He ranks among the world’s fastest footballers, both with and without the ball.
Over the years, the Portugal captain has evolved at a consistent rate that in fact ranks him very close to another star of this generation, Lionel Messi. While at Sporting Lisbon at the start of his career and later at Manchester United, Ronaldo — named after former US president Ronald Reagan — used to be deployed as a traditional winger on the right with the task of consistently delivering crosses into the penalty area.
Obviously the best player in the world is an absolutely fundamental element in any team strategy, but everyone knows that to win we have to have a team and play as a team.”
- Fernando Santos | Portugal coach
Slowly, he started using his pace and technical skills to great advantage, especially in one-on-one situations where he dribbled with much flair while displaying an array of tricks and body feints to outsmart the defence. Over a period of time, Ronaldo has perfected his trademark step-over movement that he has used to maximum effect.
As he matured, Ronaldo underwent a major physical transformation and the development of his muscular figure turned into a major asset that helped him immensely with retaining ball possession. His height of 6.1 feet is another factor he has made good use of and, today, we get the pleasure of seeing the Portugal star win many an aerial duel.
As a five-time holder of the Ballon D’or, Ronaldo may well end up with the coveted award should he find his stride in the competition. However that may pan out, it will without a doubt be entertaining to watch the Portuguese star’s exploits on Russian turf.
Born: Feb 5, 1985, aged 33
Club: Real Madrid
Portugal: 81 goals in 149 appearances