When Cristiano Ronaldo’s career is wrapped up – and let’s hope it goes on for a while longer – the competition he is most associated with will undoubtedly be the Champions League.
Sure, there was the improbable Euro 2016 win with Portugal (arguably his greatest achievement) and a host of league titles with Manchester United and Real Madrid, but the Champions League is ‘his competition’. Years from now, we will be looking back and lumping him with those players synonymous with Europe’s greatest club competition – Alfredo Di Stefano, Francisco Gento, Lionel Messi and Ferenc Puskas. Of course, as the competition’s top scorer in history, Ronaldo will deserve a seat at the head of the table.
However, as Ronaldo and his Juventus team-mates learned a couple of weeks ago in that sucker-punch defeat to Manchester United, catching lightning in a bottle over and over again is not an easy task. It’s almost mind-boggling to think that Ronaldo is going for his fifth Champions League title in six seasons this term. But, as fans of the Old Lady will tell you, it’s incredibly tough to win. In a way, Ronaldo’s Madrid side was an outlier, a freak side that benefited from obvious talent, but also some serendipity.
Man City Now Favourites
Just a couple of weeks ago, Juventus were branded the Champions League favourites by both bookies and pundits. Those odds have now dropped after the defeat to United, with Bet365 putting Man City (10/3) and Barcelona (5/1) ahead of Max Allegri’s men, who have odds of 11/2. Incidentally, Ronaldo’s former employers in Madrid are back at 10/1.
It is, of course, difficult to make a judgement on any of the top clubs in Europe. Even if you watch live sports streaming and catch every single game, every kick of the ball from the top clubs, you are not going to be able to make a truly impartial judgement on how teams will come up later in the competition. Moreover, we have seen over the last couple of seasons that favourites Man City have struggled when they have come up against 12/1 shots Liverpool in both the Premier League and Champions League.
Madrid is Location for 2019 Final
The point is that it’s tough to win the Champions League. That may sound like a throwaway statement, but it serves to highlight that the best team does not always win. With all due respect to Ronaldo, most would say that Madrid were not at their very best last season, yet still managed to be crowned kings of Europe in a wonderful night in Kiev. For that reason, the reverse is also true: Juventus might very well be the best team in Europe right now, but that does not guarantee they will break their painful Champions League Final losing record in the Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid on 1st June.
All of this might sound a bit negative on Juventus, but it’s rather a statement of reality. They are a wonderful team and, of course, in Ronaldo many will feel they have finally got the ‘difference maker’, the player who can take them across the finish line. If he can do it, then ever more records will come his way: He will join the legendary Paco Gento as the only player to win six Champions League/European Cup Finals. He will also join Clarence Seedorf as the only player to win the Champions League with three different clubs. If he does it, we will once again be short for words to describe the mercurial Portuguese star.