1. Performing when his team needed it most: Messi’s stats were slightly better last season, but his goals have been proven to be less crucial for his teams compared to Ronaldo’s. As soon as Benitez got sacked and Zidane came in as the new manager, Ronaldo became the instant saviour again for Real Madrid.
Champions League Last 16 vs Roma-Whoever watched the two legs, witnessed that there was no difference in superiority between the form of Roma and Real Madrid, that is, besides Cristiano. Before he scored in the first leg, Roma were outplaying Madrid. He scored the first goal in each of these games. He was the difference.
Champions League Quarter Finals vs Wolfsburg–Barca fans will tell you that Wolfsburg are a terrible team, and weren’t even solid enough to qualify for the competition this season. What they won’t tell you, is that they were a great side in the competition last season, managing to beat Real Madrid 2-0 in the first leg with an incredibly dominating performance. Real Madrid were on the verge of embarrassment and elimination, which could have had new coach Zidane in a ton of hot water. Up stepped Ronaldo in the second leg, singlehandedly lifting and motivating Real Madrid to win it, scoring a record-breaking hat trick. No other player has scored a hat trick in the quarter finals of the Champions League coming back from a 2-0 deficit. One of the most legendary performances in Real Madrid’s history. Messi however, could not make an impact in the quarter finals, registering no goals, seeing his team eliminated from the competition.
The 2016 Clasico away at the Camp Nou, Barcelona vs Real Madrid–Real Madrid needed to win this game in order to gain some ground on the leaders in LaLiga (Barcelona). It was tied 1-1 in the second half; Madrid had just received a red card and were down to ten men. Beating a Barca team with only ten men is next to impossible and happens only once every few seasons. Ronaldo raised his level once this happened and made the biggest impact on that field of superstars. He first set up Gareth Bale with a perfect cross to what looked like to be a perfect goal to win the game. The refs had other ideas, and waved Bale’s header off. Replays show that it was a good and legal goal. Back to 1-1 now. A few minutes later, Ronaldo takes a great shot, to only be stopped by the crossbar. Everything was not going his way, yet he still believed victory was in store. In the 85th minute, CR7 grabbed his moment, with a beautifully chested down cross, to slot it through Claudio Bravo’s legs and into the net, to win the Clasico. Ten men. Once again, a big game that Messi couldn’t leave his mark, even with the man advantage.
Celta Vigo performance-Perhaps the most complete attacking game anyone has ever seen. Ronaldo scored a penalty, a header, a free kick, and a long distance shot, for all four of Madrid’s goals. Can anyone remember a time when a player has scored in four different ways in the same game? He showed a complete arsenal of attacking weapons that day. Celta Vigo are also no slouch, a team who has been victorious against Barcelona in recent seasons. It is no surprise that Ronaldo did not get the sort of credit he deserved from pundits and journalists for that though.
Euro Cup 2016 Hero Performances:
Hungary Game-On the verge of elimination from the group stage, and embarrassment once again, Ronaldo needed to show the world why he is Captain of Portugal. Already trailing 1-0 by the 20th minute, Ronaldo and Portugal had their backs against the wall, and nerves were kicking in. Ronaldo helped tie it up with an exquisite through ball that sent Nani in alone with the keeper, easily finishing it. Hungary then scores again, 2-1 now. Nerves set in again. How does Ronaldo answer? He answered with one of the best goals of the tournament slotting in an incredible backheel goal sent in from a cross by Joao Mario, 2-2 now. Moments later, Hungary answer to take the lead….again, Ronaldo is furious, for about 30 seconds, until he realizes he must be the one to take Portugal through the knockout stages. Soon after, who else, number 7 delivered with a soaring header, scoring the goal to seal Portugal’s qualification of the knockout stage.
Euro Semi Finals vs Wales-The one difference between the two teams in this tie was Ronaldo, once again. Gareth Bale had a great tournament, just could not deliver the defining moment for Wales. Ronaldo scored the winning goal for Portugal with a leaping header, looking like he was levitating in the air. Soon after getting the assist for Nani’s go ahead goal, completing the victory at 2-0. Ronaldo, the most crucial part played in Portugal advancing to their first international finals since 2004.
2. Highest scorer in the Champions League: Cristiano filled the void of Benzema and Bale being injured on and off all season, and people seem to have forgotten that he had to take the goal scoring burden on himself most games. He scored 16 goals all together, only one shy of his previous record he set at 17 in 2014.
3. His leadership for Portugal and Real Madrid: Again, we must mention Barca fans claiming Ronaldo did nothing in the finals vs France, even though he couldn’t control what had happened to him from Payet injuring him early in the first half. Many players including Eder, Cedric, Quaresma have all spoken about the impact Ronaldo made as a leader, and as a captain, leaving the doctors tables to deliver a half time speech that motivated his countrymen against a stronger France side, informing them that they will win and make history. Also motivating every single player at the beginning of extra time (there is video of it). Eder famously telling the world that Ronaldo gave him confidence and told him he would score the game winning goal for Portugal’s first ever major trophy.
The penalty shootout between Poland and Portugal in the knockout stages (also video footage) where Ronaldo’s leadership emerged. It shows him encouraging and pressing Joao Moutinho, who lacked confidence in being one of the penalty takers, to take a penalty, telling him that he is a great penalty taker. These are moments that make a big difference, as the mental aspect of high pressure moments in sports are very crucial and should not be played down as not important.
The contrast between Ronaldo’s leadership this past year and Messi’s is quite strong. Everyone remembers Messi missing the penalty in the finals of the Copa America this past summer, making it the third time in three years that Argentina has lost in a final. He is the captain of Argentina, and he decided to briefly retire as soon as the game finished. That extra mental edge can take your team to the next level. That leadership is a major key.
4. Won the two biggest trophies of the season: He helped lead his team to the Champions League trophy for Real Madrid and to international glory with Portugal for the Euro Cup in 2016, being a key factor in both triumphs. The 11th Champions league win for Real Madrid, and the first ever trophy for Portugal in their history.
Ronaldo was fully deserving as the best player in the world for the past season for all of these reasons combined. It will be great to see these two duke it out, as usual, in 2017.