It is 2015 and Real Madrid is the team to beat in domestic and international play. While it is cold on the west side of the Atlantic Ocean, a fire is burning in Spain. This fire is Cristiano Ronaldo, whom FIFA has crowned the best player in the world for the past two years. Prior to his two stellar seasons, it was Lionel Messi who was dribbling around the world and back with ease. However, perhaps it was the “Messi Era” that began to spark a fire in Cristiano Ronaldo, a player who grew up on an island far off the coast of Portugal and left his family in pursuit of a dream, a dream that Ronaldo claims he has still not achieved even in 2015. In fact, when the 2014-2015 season began, Ronaldo stated that the goal was the same: win La Liga, the Champions League, and along the way break the records he previously set. Thus the question becomes what is Ronaldo? Is he human? Is he a prodigy? Is there any individual to whom he compares?
Perhaps Cristiano Ronaldo is the personification of soccer. An individual blessed with natural talent and an indomitable work ethic which has been rewarded time and time again. Whether it was rising through the ranks at Sporting in Portugal or solidifying his name at Manchester United, one thing has remained the same: an unquenched desire for success. From a physical standpoint, Ronaldo has relentlessly trained to become the player he currently is. Ronaldo is 6’1”, weighs 176 lbs and is one of, if not the fastest players in the game. He also has one of the hardest shots in the game. He is a phenomenal leaper and his combination of strength, jumping ability and height make him a deadly threat on balls in the air.
Perhaps it is only right that Ronaldo succeed after seeing evidence of this work ethic in a recent documentary on his life. When Ronaldo was 14 and still at Sporting, his coach caught him weight training at four in the morning, capturing a moment in Ronaldo’s life that solidifies his hunger for success. Even if a player has all of the physical attributes to play, it doesn’t mean they will be great or even good. This brings us to another facet of Ronaldo’s work ethic, which is his technical proficiency. Besides his physical prowess, he is known as one of the most gifted players with the ball at his feet, displaying phenomenal control and flair in his dribbling.
“[Ronaldo] would just go out after training and dribble the ball in the rain – doing his step-overs, the ‘Cruyff’ turns, all the things you see on television … he’d run with the ball at his feet around whole the perimeter, working on his own. It is no secret then. It is no surprise that this is how he has ended up. Not everyone does that. He is incredible,” Tim Howard once stated in an interview with DailyMail in the UK.
Therefore, it is an inherent desire to become great that makes Cristiano Ronaldo so great rather than prodigal talent at birth. Perhaps the title of prodigy isn’t fitting of Ronaldo. Even though Ronaldo is technical and creates beautiful works of play, there is an aura of passion and aggression that separates Ronaldo from his peers. Look no further than Ronaldo’s header against Manchester United in 2013, a goal in which an elegant leap off the pitch was combined with a fiery trike into the net. Furthermore, after scoring the goal, Ronaldo’s teammates clamored him with congratulations, but from the look in his eyes, he knew there was still work to be done. Thus, with Champions League in full swing and Real Madrid being the defending champions, Ronaldo may achieve what no other club has been able to achieve: back-to-back Champions League wins. By winning the Champions League again this year, Ronaldo would further solidify his legacy as being one of the best players to ever play the world’s game. In fact, Ronaldo is not unlike another athlete with an indomitable spirit and still trying to solidify his legacy: Kobe Bryant.
Kobe Bryant, a five-time NBA Champion, is also well-known for his tireless work ethic à la Cristiano Ronaldo. Perhaps Kobe is the most relevant comparison to Ronaldo because both individuals have an incessant desire to achieve greatness. Both athletes have continued to show the world their continued perseverance and dedication by choosing to play games with injuries. In fact, Bryant is so determined to succeed that he stated in his recent documentary that he sees failure as being almost as bad as death. Perhaps it is only a matter of time before Ronaldo reaches Kobe’s age yet he still has that same burning desire in his eyes – a desire to not just be Ronaldo, but to be great.