Why Ronaldo May Never Be A True Great
Google Image the words “Ronaldo” and “World Cup” and you’ll be provided with more interesting results than even this tournament has provided so far.
The first ten pictures are all of Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima rather than Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro.
There are several of the Brazilian lifting and kissing the World Cup trophy. Others show the legendary striker celebrating one of his record fifteen World Cup goals; including a brace in the 2002 final against Germany.
You need to scroll quite a bit to view his Portuguese namesake celebrate, and even then it’s a qualifying play-off goal against Sweden. Put simply: the Real Madrid star has scored less World Cup goals than the likes of Robbie Keane, Tim Cahill and David Platt.
Even then, CR7’s only finals goals have come against minnows – a penalty in a win over Iran in 2006 and another in a rout of North Korea four years later. His incredible club record in Spain has somewhat quashed his previous big game bottler tag but surely it’s now time for him to deliver at a World Cup tournament to be considered a true great?
The 29-year-old should be at his peak at his third finals but a lack-lustre display against Germany epitomised his international career. He was unable to inspire his ten-men side against superior opponents at an age where Diego Maradona had already won a winner’s medal and Pele two.
Perhaps it’s his country of birth rather than his own talent that’s the problem. While Maradona is often credited with single-handedly winning Mexico 86, he was surrounded by a talented Argentine spine with colleagues such as Jorge Valdano, Jorge Burrachaga and Jose Brown. Similarly, Pele’s team-mates during his first triumph in 1958 included the likes of Garrincha, Vava, Didi and Zito. Twelve years later he took the field alongside legends such as Carlos Alberto, Rivelino, Jarzinho and Tostao. A far cry from Nani, Hugo Almeida and the preposterous Pepe.
Indeed it’s not all about goals. Thomas Muller now has as many finals strikes as Maradona. Ronaldo needs some iconic match-winning performances in Brazil but he also needs some help from his international team-mates.
Throughout Cristiano’s club career he’s always been surrounded by gifted players, whether it was Paul Scholes, a young Wayne Rooney or Carlos Tevez at Manchester United or be it Gareth Bale, Angel di Maria or Karim Benzema at Madrid.
He’s never really had the same experience at international level, his path only crossing briefly with Luis Figo who overshadowed him during the 2006 tournament in Germany.
That Portugal currently lie fourth in the, admittedly dubious, FIFA rankings is arguably more to do with Ronaldo’s input than that of his peers. Their capitulation to Germany mean they now face an uphill struggle to qualify from a group also containing Ghana and USA. It’s time for his team-mates to step up to the mark and prove they’re not a one-man team. And possibly, despite the quirk of fate of his birthplace, catapult Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro into the pantheon of true footballing greats.