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Cristiano Ronaldo’s Masterpiece Was Years In The Making

After umpteen failed attempts, Ronaldo finally managed to score the goal of his dreams

Juventus v Real Madrid - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final Leg One Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

It was the 65th minute of El Clasico when Mesut Ozil stepped up to take the corner kick.

Real Madrid were down 1-2 at the Camp Nou, and staring at an 11-point deficit behind Barcelona in the title race — barely two months into the 2012-13 season.

The corner kick wasn’t one of Ozil’s finest, an over-hit out-swinger that ended up landing just a couple of feet inside the 18-yard line before bouncing out of play for a throw-in on the far side.

The Camp Nou faithful promptly erupted in a collective cheer of mockery. But it wasn’t aimed at Ozil.

It’s not as if rival crowds ever need a reason to boo Cristiano Ronaldo, but on this occasion, he gave them one anyway.

For moments before Ozil’s cross tumbled out of play, Ronaldo decided to attempt a first-time overhead volley, a most improbable attempt at an equalizer to add to his first-half opener. Taking a couple of backward, diagonal steps, he threw himself in the air and swung out his right foot.

His boot made thunderous contact with thin air, missing the ball by several inches, and he landed in a heap, his left shoulder painfully thudding against the slick Camp Nou turf. Victor Valdes and Martin Montoya hovered over him, bearing expressions of concern.

Ronaldo would eventually recover to complete his brace, but the match finished 2-2, leaving an eight-point gap atop the table that Barcelona would not relinquish. CR7 left the Camp Nou with an injured shoulder that nearly ruled him out of two World Cup qualifiers with Portugal the following week.

A specialist in failure

Over the years, the sight of Ronaldo trying (and failing) to score a bicycle kick for Real Madrid would become commonplace. Go to YouTube and type in ‘Cristiano Ronaldo bicycle kick fail’ and you’ll find several examples, most of them more damning than the aforementioned El Clasico fail.

There was the August 2013 attempt against Real Betis, where he swung out his boot in hope again, only for the ball to bounce off his forehead and out for a goal kick. Ungainly at best.

The following season, he managed his second bicycle kick fail in Catalunya, this time in Espanyol’s Estadi Cornella-El Prat. On this occasion, his boot made flush contact – with the solar plexus of poor Espanyol captain Javi Lopez.

In 2015, Ronaldo took his overhead-kick fail show to the Champions League, completely missing an attempt against Schalke 04.

On that occasion however, he had the foresight to stick out his left arm to cushion the blow on his shoulder, something he would also do following a sideways overhead kick fail against Alaves in 2017 — experience garnered from previous failures.

2017 was also the year in which Ronaldo managed his second fluffed overhead kick attempt against Barcelona, this time at the Santiago Bernabeu, where the ball smacked his face instead of the back of Marc-Andre Ter Stegen’s net.

But to be fair, Ronaldo wasn’t a complete “specialist in failure” (to quote Jose Mourinho) when it came to scoring overhead kicks.

There was this wonderful effort against Granada at the Bernabeu, which goalkeeper Roberto had the audacity to save, and this shot against Celta Vigo which grazed the top of the net.

Magnum opus delivered

Ronaldo had already scored three minutes in to put Real 1-0 up against Juventus at the Allianz Stadium. Los Blancos then had a golden opportunity to double their lead after Ronaldo stole the ball in the Juve penalty box after taking advantage of a miscommunication between Gianluigi Buffon and Giorgio Chiellini.

The Portuguese smartly squared the ball to Lucas Vazquez, but the Spaniard’s strike was thwarted by a desperately diving Buffon. Opportunity wasted.

Or so it seemed.

Dani Carvajal then picked up the ball on the right, and chipped the ball into the box.

Zinedine Zidane, who knows a thing or two about scoring spectacular volleys on big Champions League nights, rubbed his bald scalp in disbelief.

Isco slapped the top of his head, as if to make sure he wasn’t hallucinating.

Juventus v Real Madrid - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final Leg One
“Watch this, boss.”
Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

Ronaldo’s own initial reaction was to jog to the corner flag while prodding his ribcage with his index finger – just in case any of the Juventus fans who had spent 63 minutes jeering his every touch were unsure as to who had just pulled off the best goal ever scored in their gleaming new stadium of seven years.

But not only were they sure, they were appreciative. Once the ball bulged Buffon’s net, the Juventus faithful stood in stunned silence for a few seconds, before erupting in a spontaneous, collective show of admiration.

It wasn’t like the applause that the Bernabeu crowd delivered to Ronaldinho in 2006, which sounded like it was delivered as much to punish the Real Madrid players as it was to pay tribute to the Brazilian’s brilliant performance.

It was also more significant than the ovation the Bernabeu gave Alessandro Del Piero after his brace in 2008 – because, let’s be honest, it’s easier for rival fans to applaud Del Piero than Ronaldo.

For someone with a public image of being vainglorious and selfish to elicit such thunderous applause from rival fans is an incredible feat.

As the applause welled up around the stadium, Ronaldo’s demeanour towards the Juve fans switched. He turned to the same people he was confronting moments earlier, held up a hand by way of genuine gratitude, and took a bow.

Statistical unicorn on steroids

Even more remarkable than Ronaldo’s goal is the numerical context behind his stupendous strike.

The reigning Ballon d’Or winner has now scored in all of Real Madrid’s nine Champions League games this season – including braces against Juventus, PSG and Borussia Dortmund – and 10 straight games in the competition going back to last season’s final.

With 14 goals this term, Ronaldo is now tied for third place for most goals in a single Champions League campaign – behind Ronaldo (17 goals in 2013-14) and Ronaldo (16 goals in 2015-16).

It would take a brave person to bet against Ronaldo breaking Ronaldo’s single-season goal-scoring record at this point.

More admirable even is CR7’s stubborn determination to pull off the goal of his dreams, after umpteen failed attempts.

The ageless wonder later told Real Madrid TV that the goal was the best of his career – coming from a man who has plundered 445 goals for Los Merengues and 568 in his career, that’s saying something.

Not only was it the most iconic goal of Ronaldo’s career thus far, it’s also the one that best exemplifies him as a footballer — doggedly determined, audaciously confident and unafraid of encountering failure or mockery in the quest to pull off the spectacular on the football pitch.

Juventus v Real Madrid - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final Leg One Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

Spare a thought for Buffon, whose dream of winning his first Champions League title in his swansong season now lies in tatters thanks to his single most prolific victimizer (Ronaldo has scored nine goals in 10 shots at Buffon’s goal in the Champions League).

The Juve captain will — barring a 2nd leg Madridista meltdown of historic proportions — retire at the end of the season having won everything in the game but the Champions League.

But there is a silver lining to Buffon’s dejection, as the Italian legend made sure he left the stadium with a trophy – his vanquisher’s jersey.

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