PARIS: For a player who has won almost everything on an individual and collective level, the one honour that agonisingly evades Cristiano Ronaldo is an international trophy with Portugal.
Euro 2016 will be Ronaldo’s fourth and at 31 possibly last European Championship finals.
The previous three have all promised much only to end in varying degrees of disappointment for the three-time World Player of the Year. There have been tears and torment.
Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro has long been destined for greatness. In the year of his 16th birthday, he played for Sporting Lisbon’ s U -16, U -17, U-18, reserve and first teams.
Two years later, he had been snapped up by Manchester United, whose boss Alex Ferguson had been impressed by the teenager in a United-Sporting friendly. The No. 7 shirt became synonymous with Ronaldo. In 2004, Ronaldo announced his presence on the international stage, scoring twice as Portugal reached the final on home soil before suffering a devastating defeat to shock winners Greece.
Four years later, Ronaldo looked set to make amends. He was at the prime of his career having led United to the Champions League a month before. Yet, distracted by protracted rumours about his switch from United to Real Madrid Ronaldo found the net just once as Portugal bowed out to Germany in the quarters.
Ronaldo came into Euro 2012 on the back of a record-breaking 60-goal season with Madrid.
His double against the Netherlands led Portugal out of the cliched group of death also including Germany.
Ronaldo struck the winner against Czech Republic in the quarters, but watched on in anguish as Portugal again fell short by the finest of margins against Spain on penalties in the semifinals.
Just like Ronaldo, Sweden’ s Z lat an Ibrahimovic, Wales’ Gareth Bale and Poland’s Robert Lewandowski too have won plenty at the club level but have found success with the national side in short supply.
While they are already superstars in their countries, leading their nation to glory at Euro 2016 can elevate their legendary status back home.
First Published: Jun 06, 2016 08:54 IST