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Ronaldo & Juventus: Why (football) ambition produced a night of legend

COMMENT: Having waded through a sea of well-wishers and burly security men. Sat at the Catullo Risorante's top table. Flanked by his family. Just what, as he quietly considered the night's achievements, was running through the mind of Cristiano Ronaldo...?

Was it those taunting Atletico Madrid fans a fortnight ago at the Wanda Metropolitano? Or how about those reporters in the mixed zone as he brandished his 'five' gesture that night? Perhaps it was the man who pushed him towards Juventus? The Real Madrid president, Florentino Perez? Or better yet, we could try those judges in charge of the Ballon d'Or in December?

Basically, take your pick. The list is long. And it isn't just personalities. Even people he believed were allies. There are also those court cases hanging over him. Yet, for all that. For all the pressure. The doubts. The absolute hope in some quarters that we were now seeing his decline. Ronaldo produced a performance as significant and memorable as anything seen in a Juve shirt.

And it's important to stress Ronaldo produced this night as a Bianconeri player. This was as much Juve's moment as it was Ronaldo's. This column has stated it before - and we'll keep doing so. Juventus are a proper, proper football club. Driven and managed by proper, proper football men.

€112m for a 33 year-old? It was unheard of. Their peers wouldn't dream of it. Their bean counters wouldn't allow it. But Juve is a football club first. A business second. It doesn't exist to buy low and sell high. To mess around with contract policies for the over 30. Juve is there to win trophies. That's it. And their reward for such an approach was the performance, the memory, the legend that Ronaldo created last night.

That football ambition. Driven by Andrea Agnelli, the club's president. Brought it all together on the one night. An impossible comeback. Inspired by the world's greatest player. On a stage and in front of a full house light years ahead of anyother ground in Italy. This was a night for the Juventini.

And front and centre was Ronaldo. A hat-trick. A place in the Champions League quarterfinals. It was a performance to confirm this extraordinary 34 year-old's place among the greatest the game has seen.

And for those today arguing against such a claim, just consider this. Never in the modern era have we seen a player of Ronaldo's age play as he is playing today. Yes, Sir Stanley Matthews deserves a mention. But in modern times? At 34? No player has done consistently what we're now seeing from the Portuguese.

In Madrid. Inside the Real boardroom. They were convinced Ronaldo was past it. Certainly, they didn't believe he was worth the contract he was demanding. How they have paid for such short-term thinking these past nine months...

Of course, Tuesday Florentino re-introduced Zinedine Zidane as this season's latest coaching appointment. The third since Ronaldo's departure. Where Florentino refused to meet his terms, Agnelli obliged. And today, Juve have the Scudetto sewn up and a European title to play for. Real? Well, they'll finish potless this season. Furthermore the €45m due to swell Juve's coffers thanks to Ronaldo's heroics is the same €45m Real blew with that catastrophic defeat to Ajax. Even Italy's stock exchange was rocked. Tuesday's result seeing Juve's share price jump 20 per cent within hours - forcing a suspension in trading. There's actually good business in the veteran's market if you know what you're doing...

Pep Guardiola, after seeing his Manchester City hammer seven past a hapless Schalke, caught wind of what had happened in Turin. And for all the identities involved, he nailed it perfectly:

"Real Madrid are out of the Champions League, but look at Juventus, look at what Ronaldo did, Juventus have brought him to win the Champions League, they have reached the final twice and lost both, now they have brought Cristiano back.

"He had all the pressure on his shoulders, but he scored three goals and got his team in. That's the kind of team and players we're going to have to face."

Ronaldo, Agnelli, Fabio Paratici... they all deserved last night. They deserved it for their ambition. Their self-belief. And their faith in eachother. No trophy has yet been won. They'll be the first to tell us that.

But last night was one for the ages. For Juventus. For Ronaldo. And as a reminder for all those so eager to write him off.


Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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