We have to talk about Cristiano Ronaldo – yes, all of it

We have to talk about Cristiano Ronaldo. About all of Ronaldo. The transcendent and the abhorrent.

Right?

How can we not?

How can we not talk about the man who, practically by himself, dug Juventus out of an 0-2 hole from the first leg of the Champions League round of 16 against a fearsome Atletico Madrid. Whose hat trick on Tuesday sent the Italian side to the quarterfinals by a 3-2 aggregate score?

How can we not on a night like that, a little over a month after Ronaldo turned 34? The Portuguese forward extended his career Champions League goals record to 124. He scored his 61st, 62nd and 63rd knockout round goals – 23 more than second-place Lionel Messi. He bagged his 52nd Champions League goal after turning 30 – more than double anybody else’s tally. And he tied the tournament record for hat tricks with his eighth.

How can we not acknowledge his greatness and concede that when Ronaldo declared after the game that “probably the reason Juventus bought me is for magical nights like this” he was likely right? Because spending 100 million euros on a 33-year-old striker whose physical decline was well-documented looked fairly senseless back in the summer, were it not for his abundant marketing value. Except that Ronaldo has always been able to put a team on his shoulders, and that his production and durability seems to defy time. Consider, after all, how Real Madrid has imploded in the wake of Ronaldo’s departure, without his 40 to 60 goals a season to paper over the cracks.

How can we not reopen the discussion if he’s perhaps the greatest soccer player to ever live, even if the juxtaposition with Messi makes the debate a matter of taste, rather than empirical evidence? The preening, outsized Ronaldo and the quiet, diminutive Messi. Theirs are equally otherworldly stats and trophy cases. You’re drawn to one or to the other. The choice is one of alchemy, not numbers. Read more...

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