Cristiano Ronaldo puts to bed questions of his Real Madrid big-game impact to leave Atletico Madrid in ruins again

After playing bit-part roles in the two Champions League finals, this was Ronaldo's moment as he continued his relentless scoring record to inflict further misery on Real's city rivals

Click to follow
The Independent Football

It reflected much about how routine a devastating Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick at this kind of stage that, beyond typically calling his star “unique”, Zinedine Zidane’s only comments about the match-winner were regarding his physical routine; how the Real Madrid manager was refusing to take credit for resting the player so he arrives at this stage of the season in such stellar form.

“He scores,” Zidane began. “For that, he’s unique.

“He knows [he has to rest] every so often, with all the matches he has to play. It’s an accumulation of all the tears, too, but he’s intelligent and every now and then he has to rest.”

And that was it. That was all that was said in the two managers’ post-game press conferences about the player who had singularly decided this 3-0 Real Madrid victory over Atletico Madrid in this Champions League semi-final first leg at the Bernabeu.

Then again, what else is there to say?

It was still a comment that touched on why Ronaldo is unique, mind, and why he remains so sensational. He may not have the same mobility, he may not be able to power right through the middle of the pitch at pace and score in the way he did at his peak in 2012, but he is intelligent enough to know how to play to still hit a scarcely believe strike-rate. If his movement has become more constrained on the pitch, and his yard-coverage is diminished, his level of scoring has not.

The three goals against Atletico emphasised this. The first was - of course - a by-now trademark header in the box. The second was a brilliantly opportunistic strike from the edge of the box, after he showed the kind of force that the Atletico defenders couldn’t when haphazardly they tried to clear the ball, and the third was rolled in from close range. Ronaldo was by that point merely exploiting the wreckage that he himself had created, to again leave Atletico in ruins.

But there is more to this season than that. These obviously aren’t Ronaldo’s first goals against Atletico in the Champions League, but there was always a bit of debate and dismissiveness about the previous two: one the fourth goal in a 4-1 win in the 2014 final, the other the fifth penalty in a shoot-out win in 2016. The gimme nature of both seemed to reflect the broader idea that Ronaldo had finally won his greatest trophies at Real without necessarily having his greatest impact, compared to previous campaigns. That was especially argued in 2016, but simply can’t be argued now.

He has scored eight goals against Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid, two of the four finest sides in Europe.

It is simply remarkable, and to be revered. It might mean this campaign marks his true crowning glory, his most complete campaign, if he is to be the truly decisive player in Real actually retaining the Champions League.

Then there’s the awareness that underpins it on, and means he’s so capable of doing this. Take the controversy over his first goal here. Ronaldo had been in an offside position when the first ball was played only to go back into an onside position when the second came in from Casemiro for his eventual header, but the Portuguese was fully conscious of this. At half-time, as record by Antena 3 he sought out Martin Atkinson to make sure it was known he wasn’t interfering with play and wasn’t therefore a mistake to allow the goal.

cristiano-ronaldo1.jpg
Ronaldo guided Real to victory with his 42nd hat-trick (Getty)

“Atkinson!” Ronaldo called, somewhat amusingly, “I didn’t interfere.”

Afterwards, when talking to TV, he was much less forceful; more humble. He merely said it was his turn to score, as Real went through.

It’s just he almost always makes it his turn to score, and that is why Real almost always come through.

Just as typically, Ronaldo said after the game he doesn’t see himself in Cardiff yet.

Everyone else can by now see the truth of this remarkable - and “unique” - goalscorer.

Comments