It’s hard to argue that Cristiano Ronaldo will go down as one of the greatest soccer players of all time. His goal scoring ability, individual success and team success throughout his career have led him to be called one of the greatest players of his generation. Yet, throughout the career of great athletes-whether in soccer or another sport, there is always that one golden image or moment that we remember them by. For Ronaldo’s great rival, Lionel Messi, there is that memorable goal against Bayern Munich in last season’s Champions League. Messi’s mesmerizing dribbles that dropped Bayern’s Jerome Boateng are indelibly sealed into our minds, and we will remember that image forever when we talk about Messi. For Zlatan, it’s his famous bicycle kick against England, and for Aguero, it’s his famous stoppage time goal to win the title for City back in 2011. All these great players are having fabulous careers and have cemented themselves as some of the best players of this generation. Cristiano Ronaldo is certainly in that group of sensational players, but unlike them, he had never had that one pivotal moment we will remember him for. While there are certain individual games and performances we remember about Ronaldo, we never really had that trophy winning, game-changing image or moment of him. This Saturday, that all changed.
Ronaldo’s hat trick performance against Sweden in the World Cup Qualifiers was sensational, but it isn’t an image we will remember Ronaldo for in years to come. (Pic: ESPN)
While Ronaldo had a dismal game in Saturday’s Champions League Final, he stepped up and came through when Real Madrid needed him to convert. With Real Madrid up 4-3 in the penalty shootout, Ronaldo stepped up and buried the penalty shot in the right hand corner and took off his shirt to celebrate Real Madrid’s eleventh Champions League title. It was the moment he was missing in his career, and for years to come, we will talk about that image of Ronaldo. It’s the greatest players who in the end come through for their teams, even if initially they struggle. While Ronaldo didn’t play a great match, his heroic game-winning penalty kick will be permanently etched into Real Madrid and soccer lore for years to come.