For some, the semi final between Bayern Munich and Real Madrid will effectively decide who wins this season’s Champions League. After all, they are the two strongest, most illustrious teams left in the competition. They have the best players. Bayern Munich have Robert Lewandowski, Arjen Robben and James Rodriguez. Real Madrid have Cristiano Ronaldo, the Champions League’s top scorer.
Indeed, the Portuguese forward has been in scintillating form in the competition this season, scoring 15 times in just 10 appearances. By netting a stoppage time penalty to see off Juventus in the quarter final second leg on Wednesday night, Ronaldo became the first player in Champions League history to score in 11 successive matches.
Of course, Real Madrid are targeting their third Champions League triumph on the spin and it’s Ronaldo who has so far dragged them this far. At 33 years old, the former Manchester United forward is deemed to be in the twilight of his career, but never before has he been so effective. He remains the most dangerous striker on the planet.
This season could be Ronaldo’s crowning achievement. He has already achieved plenty over the course of his glittering career, already winning the Champions League four times before, lifting countless individual accolades in the process. But this season, he could pull off his greatest trick yet – winning the Champions League, European football’s defining club competition, almost entirely by himself.
Many will point out that Ronaldo relies on service from his teammates, and that is true. He’s not like Lionel Messi, who can single-handedly grab a game and win it all on his own, creating his own opportunity and scoring it. Ronaldo needs through balls and crosses. But his spirit and character has taken Real Madrid to this season’s Champions League semi finals.
Ronaldo possesses an irrepressible drive to win. It can be difficult to quantify something so intangible, but it has undoubtedly played a role in pushing Real Madrid to new heights in the Champions League over the past few years. It’s no coincidence that the Portuguese has won trophies wherever he has been – such an attitude rubs off on those around him.
By winning the Champions League this season, Ronaldo will take another step towards winning his sixth Ballon d’Or, putting adversary Messi in the shade. Of course, much of the focus for Messi will be on this summer’s World Cup. That will be a career-defining moment for the Argentinean as he attempts to claim the one thing that has evaded him until now – an international honour.
If Argentina are to triumph in Russia this summer, Messi will need to be in top form. Many expect that he will drag his team through the World Cup, such was their dismal qualification campaign. This is being billed as the competition to define Messi as a true great. If that’s the case, the same should be said of Ronaldo in this season’s Champions League.
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