There has been a lot of talk this week about whether CR7 can now be considered a true footballing legend, given he has finally managed to add some international silverware to his honours list.
The argument that a player needs to win an international tournament to enter into that elite group is quite frankly ridiculous. Does this mean that Johann Cruyff shouldn’t be lauded in the same company, just because he only has a World Cup runners-up medal? Does it mean that Lionel Messi, with merely an Olympic gold medal to his name for his country, shouldn’t be considered as one of the greatest players to have played the game? Of course not.
And spare a thought for those players playing for smaller countries who have little chance of lifting international silverware; the likes of Ryan Giggs and Gareth Bale of Wales, Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Sweden or George Weah of Liberia for example.
Looking across to other sports where athletes compete on their own, the likes of Manny Pacquiao will be happy to be able to achieve legend status without needing to rely on his less gifted Philippino teammates. Novak Djokovic can fly solo without being dragged down by the likes of Troiki, Tipsarevic or even lesser known Serbian tennis players.
In team sports, you cannot win a trophy on your own, regardless of how the media hype up individuals and position achievements. Maradona didn’t single handedly win the 1986 World Cup (no pun intended), just as Pele didn’t win the 1958, 1962 and 1970 World Cups on his own, and neither has Cristiano Ronaldo just won the 2016 Euros for his grateful team.
If an international trophy was the only way to cement your place in history, then we are saying that Cristiano Ronaldo can only now be considered a true legend courtesy of Eder managing to blast one past Hugo Lloris in extra time, long after Ronaldo had been stretchered off the field. His legendary status was supposedly secured by a workmanlike Portugal team of which he was not a part, finding a way to grind out a hard fought win against France. Despite his best endeavours to influence proceedings on the touchline, this was (after the 25th minute) an event completely out of his control. If Eder hadn’t scored and France eventually won on penalties then would Ronaldo have instead been consigned to second class status? It’s all nonsense.
Cristiano Ronaldo should go down in history as one of the greatest. His club honours list (3 Champions Leagues, 3 Premier League titles, 1 La Liga title plus countless cups); individual honours list (which includes 3 Ballon D’Ors); and ridiculous goal scoring record over several years (364 goals in 348 games for Real Madrid); has ensured his place in the footballing hall of fame.
Where he sits in that elite company is another argument altogether although, in my view, comparing players across different generations is a fairly pointless and meaningless activity. Of his generation he is certainly top two and that is only because he has unfortunately (perhaps) managed to overlap pretty much his entire career with another ludicrously gifted player, who has also married a relentless work ethic and determination to be best with an undeniable God given talent.
Ronaldo has not reached the summit this week. He was already there.