Insatiable hunger and Lionel Messi's influence shaped Cristiano Ronaldo's life
It is as though he is just addicted to pressure and gets to an unparalleled level of transcendence – which, in laymen term, means high – when he smells pressure. At that moment, sucked in the feeling of euphoria that comes from being consumed by your addiction, the former Real Madrid star floats above all and releases a virulent fire that condemns his opponents to the dungeons of doom.
Atletico Madrid received similar treatment last night at Turin when the former Real Madrid star scored a hattrick to knock out the Spanish side from the Champions League. Atleti had won the first-leg at Wanda Metropolitano 2-0 but succumbed to the wrath of Cristiano Ronaldo in Turin.
The Portuguese’s hunger to prove his worth – not to anyone but to himself – is simply outstanding.
With his hattrick, he tied with Messi as the player with most hattricks in the Champions League. He now has 63 knock-out stage goals in the Champions League and is also the highest assister in the history of the competition.
The former Manchester United star has won it all. Apart from the World Cup and the Confederations Cup, he has won every single trophy there is to offer at both club and international level.
Players with half of what he has achieved are celebrated as legends of the game, so it is safe to claim that should the Portugal captain retire now, he will still be regarded as one of the very best players of all time.
But no, that is not enough. For you and me – the commoner – this much would have been more than enough. But not for Ronaldo. For him, it is never enough.
In the Indian epic of Ramayana, antagonist Ravana’s noble and loyal brother Kumbhakarna was the most vociferous eater on the planet. He consumed gargantuan amounts of food on a daily basis, so much that the deities feared that he would cause a famine around the world.
Even then, however, he never stopped eating. His hunger was never satiated. Finally, in order to stop him from eating up all of Earth’s food, he was tricked by the deities into asking a boon for eternal sleep.
There is more to how that story ends but let’s get back to Cristiano Ronaldo now. While the deities were successfully able to stop Kumbhakarna, there seems to be no-one able to do the same with Cristiano Ronaldo's appetite.
Even time – the conqueror of all things – seems to be having no effect on the Portuguese as he keeps consuming other teams with his giant fangs.
He had won everything at Manchester United. For someone who joined the club in his youth, this was a huge accomplishment but he had to do more. He took the big leap to Real Madrid, where he carved himself as a legend and the club’s greatest goal-scorer ever.
The Portuguese won everything there was to win with Real Madrid – and yet, he wasn’t done. He was still hungry for more.
When Juventus came calling, he realized that he now has the chance to make history by becoming the second player ever to win the Champions League with three different teams – and not just ‘winning’ it, individually ‘conquering’ it as well.
With his hattrick against Atleti to push Juventus to the quarter-final after a 2-0 loss in the first leg, he is well on his way to lead Juventus for the reason they signed him. And yet, even if he takes Juventus to the Champions League title, his hunger will not be satiated – he is never done proving to himself that he could still be at the pinnacle of the football world when everyone else thinks otherwise.
And Lionel Messi might have something to do with this drive.
Ronaldo always had the desire to be the best. Right from his days as a teenage sensation, there was a rage in his eyes – a fire that kept burning while he also burned with it.
He worked the hardest and built a strong fortress in his mental kingdom. He not only treated his body like a temple but also worshipped the mind within it – and with that, it became his greatest strength; a god in its own right.
So when Lionel Messi came into the scene and surged forward to the point where many thought the Argentine had an unassailable lead over the Portuguese, Ronaldo, instead of surrendering to the superior natural talent of Messi, fought back harder than ever before.
Messi won four Ballon d’Ors in a row to take the head-to-head count to 4-1 in his favour in 2012. Right now, the number stands at 5-5. Lionel Messi’s presence gave Ronaldo the cause to be the greatest version of himself that he could have ever been.
When Messi took a 4-1 lead in the Ballon d’Or race, Ronaldo knew that Messi was performing better than him. Even then, however, he didn’t seem to think that the Argentine was ‘better’ – otherwise, he might have just given up.
Instead, he believed that he was the better one – he always considers himself the best, a fact that he has openly claimed before – and wanted to prove it to himself. With that began his journey to be the best version of himself.
Had Messi not existed, Ronaldo might not have had so many records and accolades to his name. The opposite is also true as the Portuguese also brings out the best in Messi.
The fact that the Argentine hasn’t been able to score a single goal or register a single assist in the three Clasicos that he has played since the departure of the Portuguese from Spain is a telling testament of how Messi’s level dropped in the Ronaldo-less Clasicos this season.
For Ronaldo, however, there is no ‘best’ version of himself – but there is always a ‘better’ version. As a result, he is always of the belief that he could do better – and that is something that keeps driving him, even at the age of 34.
Ronaldo’s natural psyche coupled with the presence of Lionel Messi forced the Portuguese to push himself to limits that not many considered possible. His commitment to being the best and the way he went on about to achieve it is a story that will be told and drawn inspiration from for a long time to come.
Father time will eventually find a way to stop him as the deities did with Kumbhakarna but his story shall be told for centuries – just like Kumbhakarna’s.