Cristiano Ronaldo’s record speaks for itself when the talk veers to just how devastating he can be on the field. The Portuguese superstar is still going strong in the twilight years of his career and is easily one of the best players the world has ever seen.
Ronaldo has also changed his game a lot to cope with age. He started his career as a pacey winger who could run riot against defences, but now he focuses on getting the ball into the back of the net with great efficiency.
He can still go past players, but not at the frequency he used to. Defenders still have to work hard to constrict his movement and stop him from scoring.
On that note, here are 5 defenders who have successfully held their own against the Juventus superstar over the years.
5. Sergio Ramos
Without an international trophy at that point, Portugal were only two steps away from achieving their dream in 2012 when they met Spain, the holders, in the semi-final stage of the competition. The game was not a classic. There were hardly any shots on target as both sides opted to play as defensively as possible, with the aim being not to concede.
Ronaldo is one player who can break the deadlock even when a team is not playing at its best. But on this occasion, he was unable to influence the game despite his best efforts. This was largely due to how well Ramos and Arbeloa managed to contain him. They did not give him a minute’s rest and kept him quiet throughout.
4. Eric Abidal
Eric Abidal has had a very successful career with Barcelona; he was part of the famous Pep Guardiola side that won everything in their path. One of his most memorable nights came when he and the Barcelona team ripped Real Madrid to shreds.
It was the very first meeting between Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola in La Liga. Real Madrid travelled to the Camp Nou looking to reduce the lead the Catalans had over them, but all they got was a hammering.
It wasn’t Ronaldo’s first-ever encounter with the Catalans, but he was kept very quiet by the defence. Barcelona dominated all of the possession as Madrid struggled to get even hold of the ball.
Ronaldo’s rival Leo Messi had an incredible game while the Portuguese himself was not given the space or the time to work any sort of angle in attack – thanks in no small part to Abidal. The Frenchman knew how dangerous Ronaldo can be on the wing; if he gets past, you can’t catch him. Which is why he did his best to ensure that Ronaldo didn't get past.
On the night, the back four kept the attackers of Real Madrid very very quiet. It was a night Ronaldo would want to forget. Los Blancos suffered a 5-0 hammering in the El Clasico, as Abidal held his own against one of the best players in world football.
3. Alessandro Nesta
Alessandro Nesta is one of the most decorated AC Milan players and one of the greatest ever defenders in the game. Alongside Paolo Maldini, he formed an almost impenetrable partnership in Italy.
Sir Alex Ferguson did not usually lose too often but against Milan, his Manchester United team were completely outplayed and outclassed. Despite boasting the likes of Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and Ryan Giggs in attack, United hardly threatened a very impressive AC Milan team.
Nesta, on the day, did not have Maldini alongside him, but the other defenders gave him enough support to marshall that defence. Rooney and Ronaldo were very used to swapping positions, but none of that worked against a very organised Milan defence.
Manchester United were blown away by the Milan side in the first half with Clarence Seedorf scoring twice to put them 2-0 ahead. United had more possession in the second half but Ronaldo couldn't even muster up a meaningful shot on goal.
Milan were supremely composed in defence and it was all down to Nesta’s reading of the game and co-ordination with his defensive partners.
2. Ashley Cole
Ashley Cole and Cristiano Ronaldo met several times in the Premier League during the latter's Manchester United days, and their battles kept going back and forth.
When Cole was at Arsenal, Ronaldo was a teenager who played with no fear. In one of their early matches, Cole had no answer to his stepovers and tricks, getting bamboozled many times. Ronaldo was an unknown commodity at the time, which made it more difficult for defenders to predict him.
However, Cole got him back during his time with Chelsea, and even when England met Portugal. He learnt how to neutralise Ronaldo’s tricks by sticking as close to him as possible and essentially marking him out of the game.
Ronaldo has stated on the record that Cole is one of the toughest opponents he has faced.
“Over the years I had some great battles with Ashley Cole, he does not give you a second to breathe. He was such a tenacious player when he was at his peak, quick, tough in the tackle. You knew it would never be an easy game.”
1. Diego Godin
Atletico Madrid, under Diego Simeone, have become a force to be reckoned with, both domestically as well as in Europe. The only team to have won the La Liga title this decade apart from Barcelona and Real Madrid, the Rojiblancos boast a very good record against their city rivals under El Cholo.
One player, in particular, has earned high praise from pundits around the world for his excellence in defence. Diego Godin, in his time in the Spanish capital, was rock solid for Atletico Madrid, as he helped the team earn the reputation of being the toughest team to beat in Europe.
Real Madrid found out several times against their neighbours how hard it is to get the better of them. Apart from the UEFA Champions League finals, Los Blancos, in recent seasons, have not liked playing Atletico.
One of Ronaldo’s worst-ever games came against Atletico in 2015 when they were hammered 4-0 away from home. Ronaldo had a shocker of a match, having been completely marked out of the game by the Atletico defence.
Los Blancos had just four shots on goal, with only one on target. Ronaldo did get his revenge in the following season by scoring a hat-trick against Atletico, but that game was a defensive masterclass from Godin and co.
Both of them are currently plying their trades in the Serie A, as Ronaldo sealed a stunning switch to Juventus and Godin secured a free transfer to Inter Milan.