The number 30 is very important in a footballer’s career; most if not all slowly step into their inevitable decline on saying goodbye to the ‘roaring twenties’. But the current Ballon D’or Cristiano Ronaldo represents a curious case. He is arguably in the best form of his life and shows no signs of decline. In fact, Ronaldo has declared that he aims to play till forty and given his supreme physical condition there is every chance that he can. What is interesting though is how CR7 has evolved himself over the years maturing from a flamboyant winger to the most lethal forward on the planet.
Today’s birthday boy started out in the youth academy of Sporting Lisbon for whose first team he played 31 games scoring 5 times. His prodigious talent impressed Sir Alex Ferguson who immediately snapped him up following the youngster’s exploits in a friendly against his future employers, Manchester United. The fact that Ronaldo has pipped Arsenal legend Thierry Henry in a recent fans’ poll to determine the greatest Premier League player in history speaks volumes of the Portuguese’s achievements at Old Trafford. In the summer of 2009, Ronaldo headed to his dream club Real Madrid as the world’s best and most expensive player. However, there were still question marks especially among those who felt that he was not a big game player and in spite of 118 goals for United, not a natural goal-scorer. One stat is enough to respond to all such criticisms: 288 goals in 277 games for Real Madrid at a rate matched only by Barcelona’s Lionel Messi.
The biggest ability of Ronaldo is not his endless repertoire of step-overs, nor his bullet headers or his dipping free-kicks. It is his desire to win and be the best in the world. Unlike Messi, CR7 is not shy and although many call him arrogant, Ronaldo claims he does not pretend and wears his heart on his sleeve. The very fact that he was able to reclaim the Ballon D’or after the four year dominance of Messi is a testament to his determination and drive. Ronaldo works extremely hard to keep himself in outstanding shape. Aside from 200 push-ups per day, he also takes good care of himself by imposing a strict post-match regime. As a result, he is likely to remain injury free for long periods of time despite receiving malicious treatment from opposing players on a regular basis. 30 might be the start of a downward spiral for most, but Ronaldo seems set to push his game to the next level as he enters another phase of his life. A look at his stats over the last few seasons involving his goal accumulations further validates his improvement with age- 33 goals in 2009-10, 50 in 2010-11, 60 in 2011-12, 55 in 2012-13, 51 in 2013-14 to go with the 36 already netted this campaign. Not only are these numbers astounding, they also showcase how the player has grown with the passage of time and come of age, literally and figuratively. Perhaps he could be a bit more mature with respect to his behavior but that fortunately or unfortunately does not decide his legacy as a player.
Ronaldo may not be everybody’s cup of tea but he certainly commands respect for his consistency and incredible hunger for success. For a man whose career is defined by numbers, the most insignificant number in his possession is and probably will be his age.