World Cup 2018: Doesn't matter what the question is, Cristiano Ronaldo is the answer
There is a certain breed of man that refuses to live within the confines of what is acceptable behaviour. There is a certain kind of attitude that has no regard for what is within the realm of reality. There is a certain kind of purpose which refuses to acknowledge its end.
And then, there is Cristiano Ronaldo.
For a decade now, We have watched this man do things, no one, I repeat, no one else has and have simply brushed aside all of his ludicrous achievements as the work of a self-obsessed, pompous, arrogant brat who knows how to take a penalty or two. Something within the reach of most footballers.
Before you rush to judgment, like so many have over and over again with regard to the Portuguese sensation, I'd like to state my reasons for doing so. All those years growing up watching the Premier League and swearing by Arsenal Football Club, you can imagine why I have this innate sense of aversion to the towering accomplishments of the man who chose to play for Manchester United over us.
And then have the audacity to challenge the lofty standards set by The Invincibles. Surpass it? Hell no! I will not have it.
So despite CR7 tearing apart the Premier League, laying his hands on the UEFA Champions League, breaking the goal-scoring records of Thierry Henry, I chose to attribute all of it to assumptions like, "The League's gone to sh*t!", or stuff like, "If they'd just let him stop coming in onto his right, he'll stop scoring!" I chose to live in denial, as the man continued trotting out world-class performances, game after game, season after season.
Mercifully, Real Madrid came calling soon after and the most prolific goal-scorer in the Premier League set sail for Spain. "Thank the Lord, it's all over now", I thought.
Messi takes centre stage
Then, a certain Argentine stepped onto the stage. An Argentine that has mesmerized me more than I ever thought was possible.
I've seen Dennis Bergkamp flick the ball around a Newcastle defender and bury it with his next touch, I've seen Zinedine Zidane sweep the ball home with the most the delightful swing of the left foot in a Champions League final, I've seen Ronaldinho shimmy and then poke the ball home, past 5 men in blue at Stamford Bridge, all of twenty-five yards from goal. I've seen it all. How then can I be hypnotized the way I am by this little Magician?
This is where my loathing for the goal-scoring heroics of Ronaldo really started to gather steam: in the context of who is the greatest of all time.
As Lionel Messi notched up a hat-trick of Ballons d'Or, I rested easy in the comfort that the Portuguese talisman has met his nemesis. After he made it five, I rested easier with the belief that the Real Madrid man has passed his prime.
31 years old, and his best days behind him, Cristiano Ronaldo ought to be resigned to the back pages of the history books, I smirked.
Oh, Cristiano Ronaldo will definitely go down in history, but not how you thought he would.
After he levelled Lionel Messi on five Ballon d'Ors each, I shifted goal-posts on him; asserted that unless he wins something with his country he cannot ever be regarded as the greatest of all-time.
When Messi missed out on a title with Argentina following three defeats in finals and Ronaldo went onto win the Euros with Portugal, I moved away from that assertion. Claimed that the greatest player in the history of the game, Lionel Messi, doesn't need to win it all to be regarded as such. All you need to do is watch the man play.
It's been roughly 15 years since this hate-hate relationship with Ronaldo began, so what I'm basically trying to say is that I'm very seasoned at knocking away the repeated intrusions into my faith in Lionel Messi's all-conquering abilities. Nothing can shake that.
So how then, are we here?
CANNOT. WRITE. HIM. OFF.
Portugal versus Spain. In the 2018 World Cup. The world's eyes are on Russia and somehow all the talk is about everyone but Cristiano Ronaldo. This fits in brilliantly into the narrative, doesn't it? The one that tries to dismiss Ronaldo as just another player. "Got too lucky for even himself in France. In the World Cup? Are you serious?"
And this is where Cristiano Ronaldo revels. This is where the man eats. Write him off. Go on.
The Messi fanatic in me, as always, couldn't resist the bait.
Four minutes in and Ronaldo goes down in the box. "Of course he did! Go on Penaldo get your goal. That's how you got past Juventus too didn't you, by the skin of your teeth!"
44 minutes on the clock and David de Gea's horrendous blunder makes it two for the Portuguese. "A penalty and a Rob Green moment. Typical."
Moments remaining in the game, and Cristiano Ronaldo wins a free-kick on the edge of the box. "Ah! Here is where it gets tricky doesn't it Ronny boy! Should've gone done inside the box, 'coz that's all where you can score from."
"How long has it been since you last scored from a free-kick? 10 years or something? Yeah, yeah! Go ahead. Pull up those shorts for the shutterbugs. Before you send the ball into row Z."
We've all gotten accustomed to the record-breaking habits of Ronaldo and sure, on the night too, he broke and created a bunch of them. 51st career hat-trick, scored in eight consecutive major international competitions, most international goals for a European international. Sure. That's what he does.
But what he did on the night transcends numbers, and statistics, and logic. It defies belief. Only the greatest can do what Cristiano Ronaldo did: Deliver at the moment it counts the most.
The greatest of all-time?
A question that divides the world more than any political, cultural and religious leaning tends to; and we all know how divided this world is. It is a choice that matters more than those which affect our way of life.
The World Cup. A goal down. Just a minute to go. On a hat-trick. Who do you want to step up? Who can drag Portugal back from the dead? Who do you think can write that magical story? Who has the willpower and the desire to script history?
It doesn't matter what the question is, Cristiano Ronaldo is the answer.
This isn't for the reads, or for critical acclaim. This isn't even an article. This is the kid inside a huge man - who has known nothing but football all his life, professed his love for nothing but this game, has sworn by Lionel Messi's antics as supreme and no one else's, and has vowed to never be impressed by Ronaldo's feats, conscientiously proclaiming that on 16 June 2018, for a fleeting moment, Cristiano Ronaldo was undoubtedly the greatest of all-time.