Ronaldo played the lead role in all five previous triumphs, from his towering header for Manchester United against Chelsea in 2008 to the tie-clinching, 97th-minute penalty against Juventus in the quarterfinals last season. No player owns as many Uefa Champions League titles as Cristiano Ronaldo but a sixth with Juventus would surely be the best of the lot for him.
In between, there were the 17 goals he scored in every game bar one en route to the trophy in 2014, the title-winning penalty against Atletico Madrid in 2016 and the hat-trick against the same opposition, this time in the last four, a year later. He would also score twice against Juventus in the final.
With a view to becoming the beneficiaries, rather than victims, of these match-winning moments, Juve decided last summer that the only way to win the Champions League before Ronaldo retires is to have Ronaldo on their team.
They begin that assault tonight, when “CR7” will kick a ball competitively in Spain for the first time since his dizzying €100 million (R1,7 billion) move from Madrid. Valencia are the obstacle at the Mestalla, where he scored twice – both penalties – for his former team last term.
Many were shocked when Ronaldo drew a line under his time in the Spanish capital, with most believing his complaints to be the latest round of posturing aimed at those higher at the club. They may have been – but this time he meant it.
Lionel Messi told Catalunya Radio earlier this month: “I was surprised, I didn’t imagine him leaving Madrid or that he would go to Juve.” There is merit and romance in Messi sticking with his boyhood club Barcelona, but even he must find it hard not to admire Ronaldo’s gumption.
More trophies and records would inevitably have followed at Madrid but instead, Ronaldo started again, risking his reputation somewhere totally new.
There is risk too for Juventus, who have shelled out the first three-figure sum ever paid for a player in their thirties, and one that represents a very different model to the free-flowing forward that used to terrorise defences left, right and centre.
Source: Daily Sun