Cristiano Ronaldo scored his first senior goal in professional football 20 years ago yesterday (7th October).
The goal came for Sporting Lisbon and, as Record describes, “The Portuguese international, then 17 years old, took the ball, dribbled past two opponents and when João Ricardo left the goal, he poked the ball over him.
“In the celebrations, Ronaldo took off his shirt, as it became 2-0 against Moreirense, at the Alvalade [Sporting Lisbon’s stadium].
“The Portuguese forward scored twice in the match (it ended 3-0) that went down in history.”
Fast forward those 20 years and the legend has added 697 more goals to that total, soon to reach the magic 700, a figure never reached before and a record that is likely to stand for many years to come.
The anniversary passed by with a whimper, having the day before fluffed his lines as his teammates tried to tee him up many times to try to crown the occasion with that elusive 700th goal. It was not to be.
It seems like only a few weeks ago that everyone was talking about how Ronaldo has kept himself so fit that he has the body of a 30 year old, that he should be able to play at the top level into his 40s and so on. Now, after a bad start to the season, it looks like the beginning of the end. For some, it looks like the end of the end.
How sad it was to see the humiliation of him going public to demand a transfer to a Champions League club, only to find that not a single one wanted him.
This shouldn’t be the end. This cannot be the final chapter in that 20 year career. Ronaldo deserves to go out in a blaze of glory.
And deep down, it feels as if there is life in the old dog yet, and that everyone is writing him off too soon.
Yes, he has lost a yard of pace and he has struggled to find the back of the net this season. But that could be about form and a lack of proper pre-season, at least in part, as much as it is about his age.
He has had to re-invent himself before, when the dribbling and stepovers gave way to the more energy-conserving goalscoring predator. Perhaps all that’s needed now is another adjustment, to a more Benzema-esque style of play, a centre forward who mixes power, guile, aggression and vision rather than relying on pace and timing.
Whether it is at United or elsewhere, that swansong has to come and United should do whatever is needed to try to help him sing it.
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