The renaissance of Cristiano Ronaldo
It was the year 2012, Lionel Messi had just won his fourth Ballon d'Or, and was widely considered the best player in the world with even his staunchest critics acknowledging that he was far in front of the pack.
Cristiano Ronaldo's 2008 Ballon d'Or had become a forgotten relic, and all the world could speak about was the Argentinian magician who had taken over Ronaldinho's mantle so effortlessly.
Messi's humility and shy smile won over audiences, and even Ronaldo's most hardcore supporters were resigned to the fact that in that moment the footballing world had eyes for only one man.
Subconsciously, Ronaldo always knew that if he was going to reach the top, it was going to be due to sheer hard work and unrelenting determination. One only needs to listen to his coaches and teammates tell stories about how Ronaldo was the first to arrive and last to leave to understand the amount of work he has put in.
He worked every day, for hours and hours after training practising set-pieces, and more hours after training in the gym, sculpting that Adonis-like physique.
He was consumed by only one thing - showing the world that he's the best. In his mind, he had always been the best. When he had made a mockery of world class defenders in the Premier League, he had to have known that he was on a different level.
His step-overs and flicks dazzled fans and commentators alike, and he had the audacity to attempt them, because he had always known that he had what it took to become the best.
He plundered goals in the coming seasons after moving to Real Madrid, setting up the most enticing rivalry sport had ever witnessed.
Suddenly people started to wonder. What if Messi finally had a worthy foe? What if Messi's incomparable ability with the ball could not only be rivaled, but surpassed? What if football suddenly had an athlete capable of leaps that left defenders with a sprained neck?
Ronaldo was never affected by the talk. His critics made him work harder, boos made him twice the player, and pressure situations made him far better than anyone else on the planet.
This has separated him from Lionel Messi. This has made him different from every player to have played this beautiful game. This has cemented his legacy as one of the greatest ever players, if not the greatest.
He began picking up Ballon d'Ors and Champions League medals at will, and his hunger never waned. The hours never reduced, and his work-ethic never slacked. People struggled to come to terms with the fact that Cristiano Ronaldo, the quintessential pantomime villain had risen from the ashes, driven by unparalleled willpower.
He continued shutting down every critic, silencing booing stadiums and made jaws drop in awe of his brilliance. However, his crowning moment came when he turned 30, when he had the maturity to realise that he no longer possessed the pace to ghost past unsuspecting defenders.
In the sporting world, 30 is a dreaded number, but Cristiano molded himself into the world's most lethal finisher, and honed his off the ball movement to such an extent that the best defenders in the world were left chasing shadows.
This effortless transition is what distinguishes Ronaldo from his peers. He carried his country to an European Championship medal, and he carried Real Madrid through their golden era of European dominance, but most importantly he became a leader.
Now Cristiano faces the improbable task of shouldering the burden of every Portuguese supporter's hopes through the knockout stages of sport's biggest event.
Who better to captain a side than a man who has the hunger of a starved lion, a man who knows what it takes to motivate himself when the going gets tough, a man who has engineered his renaissance to mind-numbing perfection.
Who better than Cristiano Ronaldo? Have your say in the comments.