Euro Heroes: Cristiano RonaldoThomas Müller, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo have all made their mark on European football – and not only with their ball skills. On the eve of Euro 2016, we profile the four players and their journey to the top. Part 3: Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo
There are ambitious people. Then there are very ambitious people. And then there’s Cristiano Ronaldo. This man would never have been content just to be a world-class footballer, a Real Madrid icon, a global star. He wanted, as he put it, “to become a legend”. It was once revealed that when Ronaldo was dating supermodel Irina Shayk, the two of them would occasionally have swimming races. The footballer would swim like there was no tomorrow.
“I always win in those games, because I don’t like to lose!” he said at the time. Not even to the woman he loved. Ronaldo isn’t only Real’s biggest star, he’s the team’s hardest worker. He practises his free-kick routine – five long steps backwards, legs apart in concentration – on a daily basis. The same routine over and over again for years.
Ronaldo is certainly a mould-breaking footballer, but, even more than that, he’s a mould-breaking professional. For him, sit-ups are a hobby. You’ll almost never see him in a restaurant in Madrid after 9pm; his special high-protein, low-carb diet leaves no room for flexibility.
Ronaldo in numbers
The Real star dribbles and shoots like no one else, breaking records by the bucketload. Some hate him, but many more love him, as proved by his 200 million followers on social media
He has been selected nine times for FIFA’s World Eleven. Messi shares the record
His 78cm leaps to head the ball are higher than those of your average NBA player
He’s the first Real player to have broken the 350-goal mark. As a professional player, he has scored a goal in every possible minute of a 90-minute match
The number in millions of likes on his Facebook page: no one on the site is more popular
And Ronaldo never touches alcohol. The player’s 3,000m2 villa in north-west Madrid is home to state-of-the-art medical equipment, the sole purpose of which is to regenerate his muscles.
In 2008, Ronaldo suffered an ankle injury. It would be six years before he suffered another injury that resulted in such a long absence from the pitch. In that time, he played a full schedule of around 70 matches a year.
When today’s football fans tell their grandchildren about Ronaldo, their sons won’t believe them. Because Ronaldo has the qualities of a Marvel-invented footballing superhero;
when he hits a free kick, the ball accelerates three times faster than an Apollo rocket during take-off.
When he dribbles the ball, it takes him less than a second to execute each of his 13 different tricks, stepovers and sidesteps, making him almost impossible to defend against.
And when he leaps to head the ball, Ronaldo reaches heights greater than those of your average professional basketball player.
A sponsor once took Ronaldo into a sports laboratory and crossed footballs to him in pitch blackness, telling him only how they would be delivered. He hit all of them. The Portuguese star has worked unimaginably hard to achieve all of this. He has been willing to dedicate his life to success with a level of fanaticism it’s hard to fathom.
In the past, there were very talented players and then there were those who were less so. The latter had to work harder to make up for their shortcomings if they wanted to keep up with the geniuses. But that’s not how things have worked since Cristiano Ronaldo came along. Now we know what happens when a phenomenal talent is convinced that quality is born of suffering.