Opinion: Cristiano Ronaldo Creates Saudi Pro League History But He Will Have To Surrender Spotlight To Conquer EURO 2024

Cristiano Ronaldo Is Portugal's Leader
Cristiano Ronaldo Is Portugal's Leader

Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the best forwards the world has ever seen. He won his first Ballon d’Or at Manchester United, claimed four UEFA Champions League trophies at Real Madrid, and became the quickest to score 100 goals for Juventus during his relatively short three-season stay in Turin. Now, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner is rocking the Saudi Pro League, scoring goals for fun for one of the best teams in the division, Al-Nassr.

Cristiano Ronaldo Becomes First Player To Become Top Scorer Of 4 Leagues

Cristiano Ronaldo capped off his first full season in Saudi Arabia in the finest possible fashion on Monday (May 27), scoring twice in a 4-2 victory over Karim Benzema’s Al-Ittihad. The brace took the Portugal icon’s league tally to 35, allowing him to break the record for most goals scored in one campaign. Ex-Al-Nassr forward Abderrazak Hamdallah was the previous record holder. He scored an impressive 34 times in the 2018-19 season to set the record.

Ronaldo’s 35-goal season has also taken him to a unique record, making him the first player in history to emerge as top scorer in four domestic leagues across the world. In the 2007-08 Premier League season, Ronaldo scored an impressive 31 times at Manchester United, winning the Golden Boot for the first time. In La Liga, he repeated the feat thrice — 40 goals in 2010-11, 31 goals in 2013-14, and 48 goals in 2014-15 — with Real Madrid. Finally, he climbed the top step with Juventus in Serie A, netting 31 times in the 2020-21 season.

At 39, Cristiano Ronaldo looks fitter than most goalscorers in their 20s. He has shown he can convert chances, put pressure on opponents, and even create goals (11 assists in the Saudi Pro League). However, doing it in the 2024 European Championship will require something extra special.

Cristiano Ronaldo May Need To Sacrifice Himself For Portugal To Win EURO 2024

The former Real Madrid man finished as the top scorer in EURO 2020, netting five times in four appearances. But Portugal did not necessarily look at their best in the competition. Os Navegadores lost 1-0 to Belgium in the Round of 16, all thanks to the excellent work the Red Devils did on Ronaldo. They simply isolated him at the top, which kept him from making an impact. That was three years ago.

Now, the 39-year-old is more dependent than ever on supply. He is a fine finisher, as evidence suggests, but he cannot create goals all by himself. In the Saudi Pro League, he used his off-the-ball movement to create space, snuck in behind the opposition, and put away the chances that came his way. Occasionally, he used his burst of pace to catch the defenders out. The same strategy may not work in the 2024 European Championship, especially not against world-class teams.

If teams manage to create a barrier around Ronaldo and snuff out the passes to him, the Al-Nassr ace will have to drop to midfield to get involved in the game. And since he no longer has the pace or the ability to take defenders on, he will become much easier to defend against.

We believe the solution is to take the burden off Ronaldo. He will remain an important part of the team, thanks to his leadership skills. But Portugal cannot keep pinning all their hopes on their record scorer. In EURO 2024, the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Bernando Silva, and Diogo Jota must take responsibility, showing Portugal are world-class even without Ronaldo. If they do not, we are afraid another disappointment awaits for Roberto Martinez’s boys.

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