- Cristiano Ronaldo is nominated for The Best FIFA Men’s Player award
- He won the UEFA Nations League with Portugal
- He helped Juventus to defend their Serie A crown
It may have taken a while to get used to seeing Cristiano Ronaldo in a Juventus shirt rather than a Real Madrid one, but in many other ways it was business as usual. The now 34-year-old celebrated one goal after another, decided the result of numerous matches and was named Serie A’s most valuable player at the end of last season. Before The Best FIFA Men’s Player 2019 is revealed, we look back at three of CR7’s most important moments over the past 12 months.
First goal for Juventus
When Ronaldo arrived at Juve, many wondered if the move would pay off. For the first three league matches of the season, fans watched the striker repeatedly create chances – and then fail to convert them. It became clear that his eagerly anticipated first goal would not come easily. The moment finally arrived in Juventus’s fourth Serie A game, when the Portuguese superstar found the back of the net at home to Sassuolo after 320 goalless minutes.
For a man renowned for stunning strikes throughout this career, his breakthrough strike was almost mundane – a tap-in into an empty net from about a metre away. Nevertheless, the spell was broken, and he added a second later in the match – the 400th league goal of his career – to secure a 2-1 win for his team.
"I was a little bit anxious as expectations were high," said Ronaldo. "I really wanted to score, so I’m happy. Of course there was attention after my arrival in Turin, but life is like that."
Champions League hat-trick against Atletico
"We can still do it. There are always defeats in football. Let’s see who progresses," Cristiano Ronaldo said after the Bianconeri’s sobering 2-0 loss to Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League round of 16 tie. He followed up these words with action.
After an early Juve goal was ruled out due to a foul by Ronaldo, Federico Bernadeschi played a beautifully weighted cross to the far post, where the onrushing Portuguese star fired the ball into the back of the net with a powerful header from close range. It was his 122nd goal in the UEFA Champions League. Perhaps even more importantly, it was the first time in 388 minutes of European football that Atletico’s defences had been breached, raising the Italians’ hopes of a comeback.
The former Real Madrid and Manchester United striker then secured Juve’s passage to the quarter-finals in the second half with another header and a penalty. "The victory was all thanks to a Martian in a No.7 shirt called Cristiano Ronaldo," declared Gazzetta dello Sport, while Il Messaggero wrote: "A golden Ronaldo is Mr Europe. Performances like the one he delivered are why we play football."
Three goals for Portugal bring back memories
Winning UEFA EURO 2016 with Portugal was undoubtedly one of the highlights of Ronaldo’s career, as he finally tasted victory with the national team after amassing countless trophies at club level.
This makes it all the more remarkable that he worked so hard with Portugal in the inaugural UEFA Nations League in 2019 to clinch the title on home turf.
The reigning European champions began their campaign by playing Switzerland in the semi-final. Portugal’s all-time leading goalscorer gave his side a 1-0 lead with a free-kick before La Nati equalised. Yet once again the man from Funchal found a way through, scoring twice more in the final few minutes of the match to fire the Iberians into the final in Porto, where they beat the Netherlands 1-0. His three goals evoked memories of Portugal’s legendary game against Spain at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, where he also found the target three times.
"In terms of adjectives to describe Ronaldo’s game – I’ve used many," said national team coach Fernando Santos. "I was his coach in 2003 and I could see where he’d go. He’s a genius. There’s genius paintings and sculptures – and he’s a football genius."