An open letter to Cristiano Ronaldo after winning his first international tournament
Dear Cristiano Ronaldo,Greetings!
Before saying anything else, congratulations are in order. Not just because Portugal won their first major trophy and so did you, but also on the now-imminent Ballon d'Or victory. You might have to put the champagne on ice as far as the latter is concerned but the former was possible all thanks to you.
While you might not have done what you wanted in the final, you still did more than enough throughout the tournament to create history for Portugal.
If one of the pre-requisites for becoming one of the greatest footballers to have ever played the game is an international trophy, you have finally managed to tick that box off as well. After four league titles, three Ballon d'Or wins and three UEFA Champions League titles, you finally have an international tournament to your name as well and for that, Portugal will always be grateful.
Then again, not winning this tournament would have done nothing to tarnish your legacy. After all, not everyone can claim to have scored 50 goals for six successive seasons or played a huge part in three European cups in their entire career. But such was the hoopla surrounding Lionel Messi's retirement and inability to win an international trophy that there was almost extra pressure on you to bring your team home.
On two occasions, it looked as though the tournament was slipping away from Portugal. The first was against Hungary, when at least a draw was required and the second one was in the final when you had to go off.
Yet on both occasions, you battled against the odds to help make history. While it was through your goals in the final match of the group stage, it was the commitment to the cause that you showed by playing through the pain barrier in the final. While the former will be spoken about at length, I fear the latter won't be given nearly as much credit as it deserves.
At first, I thought little of the fact that you went down. I thought it was nothing more than an impact injury but how wrong I was proven. One look at the pictures again and the pain that you went through was evident.
Some might have chosen to give up right there but you wanted to see your side home. You came back, despite being in pain and showed your teammates just how much winning this would meant to you and everyone else in Portugal.
While there were echoes of Giorgio Chiellini's injury against Spain in the Euro 2012 final and the Brazilian Ronaldo in the 1998 World Cup, you came back on, showed fight, desire to win and the commitment to your country's cause.
Champion of the lost cause
Later in the game, you even channelled the manager inside you. Instead of having treatment for your injury, you decided it was more important to be on the sidelines and cheer your mates to victory. Whether it was that little piece of advice to Eder after he scored to ask him to hold onto the ball or willing Raphael Guerreiro onto the pitch so that you can have 11 men on the park to maintain your lead or even the iconic "Sir Alex Ferguson reference to the watch" as the clock was winding down.
The legality of the shouting from the touchline and harping instructions might be one for the pedants to ponder, it showed just how much this game means to you. It showed to the world that for once, you aren't as selfish as you may seem, as you risked your injury getting worse by playing on and walking out again instead of getting treatment just so you can help your side home.
The legend of Cristiano Ronaldo just got bigger after the Euro 2016 final, which reaffirmed what all your fans have always known. Despite wearing the persona of always wanting something to be about you, there isn't a player who works harder to give their all to the team's cause, no matter what it took from then.
Perhaps, one day, long after you have hung up your boots, we will again get the pleasure of watching you on the pitch, even if it is just from the side lines. You have given us plenty to savour for an entire lifetime and whenever you call it a day, it will be one that football fans dread as that will mean one of the game's greatest will no longer be playing the beautiful game.
And while some might want you to call it a day now and retire on top, please don't provide football fans with further heartbreak. Play on, until you aren't able to any more. Keep going as long as those legs and that mind still wants to provide fans with moments to savour. And just like you did today, never give up, for football would be a poorer place without you.
A fan who doesn't want you to retire