Cristiano Ronaldo: the king of Europe who has normalised the abnormal

Animal-like in intensity and absurd with his goals, the Juventus forward could take his tally of European Cup wins to six

Next time, Cristiano Ronaldo might have to use two hands. At the end of the first leg against Atlético Madrid, he departed the Wanda Metropolitano raising his palm, repeating the message he had delivered on the pitch, ensuring that no one missed it. “Five,” he said, as he headed out towards the car park under the south-west corner of the stadium. “I have five Champions Leagues … and Atlético have none.” Juventus had been defeated, but they were not yet beaten. It seemed unlikely then, but Ronaldo’s defiance was not just a gesture; it never is. A bad loser, some called him, but it is part of what makes him such a good winner.

The way one former coach of Ronaldo’s describes him, the portrait is of a man who almost has to be held back in the tunnel, like an animal. On those nights when there is something else, some other challenge, someone to fight and defeat, he says, there’s Ronaldo: growling, straining … and then released. Atlético Madrid are familiar with that; four years in a row, their Champions League campaigns came to an end against Real Madrid, defeated by Ronaldo: two finals, a semi-final, a quarter-final. With his hat-trick on Tuesday night, he has scored 25 goals against them.

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