On September 29th, Cristiano Ronaldo lined up with hosts Juventus for a critical early Serie A match-up against Napoli, their closes rival on the table and a perennial contender for the Scudetto. It took the visitors ten minutes to score, then Ronaldo took over. In an exhibition of why he is one of the all time greats, the Portuguese superstar created all three of his team’s goals and turned what was a shaky start into a 3-1 rout.
In the 26th minute, playing on the left wing, Ronaldo sent a perfect left-footed cross to Mario Mandzukic for the easiest header put-away the Croat will have all season. As the first half came to a close, CR7 had a free kick go off the post.
In the second half, at the 49th minute mark another Ronaldo shot—on the run, dribbling past two opponents, sprinting from the left and cutting right, in toward the box—went off the post, after a David Ospina save. Again, a teammate profited as Mandzukic tapped in the go-ahead goal from close range. At the 76th minute a Ronaldo header toward the far post off a corner coming from right to left, saw Leonardo Bonucci tap in at the post for the team’s final score. Ronaldo did not get credited with a goal or an assist and this match’s exploits are not recorded among his official five goals scored and four assists in Serie A.
If you take the nine official goals Ronaldo is credited with either scoring or assisting on, and add the three he made happen against Napoli, and the four he contributed to in the remaining Serie A games, you realize that of Juventus’ 19 goals the superstar has had a hand in 16 or over 84%.
Yesterday, at Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium, it was CR7’s cross from the right wing which eventually made its way to Paulo Dybala for Juve’s winning score. Ronaldo had two great shots saved by David De Gea. No one doubts what most fans came to see in Manchester that evening.
The Juventus Champions League victory seemed to emphasize to many how far Juve has come since this summer and what might be fair expectations for their European progress come next spring.
If one were to look at CR7’s exploits during Portugal’s Euro 2016 winning run, the World Cup 2018 qualifiers in 2017, and the 2018 World Cup this summer in Russia, you can see that over the past three years, the 33 year old striker is playing as if still in the plenitude of his career. His move to Juventus from Real Madrid has made of the Italian giants world contenders while his former Spanish team languishes in both La Liga and Champions League.
It remains to be seen if Juve will win a treble this year—Scudetto, Coppa and Champions League—or whether that will translate into Italian and UEFA Super Cup wins, and a FIFA Club World Cup trophy, but who wants to wager it might not happen? Who can doubt, at this very early stage, that CR7 makes Juventus shine?