Portugal hero reveals incredible leadership of Cristiano Ronaldo that inspired Euro 2016 victory
Cristiano Ronaldo: a leader of men.
There was a moment of clarity for the football world on Sunday night.
The Portugal captain went down for a final time and it was clear that he wouldn’t be getting back up. His fans were distraught for him. Football people who appreciate both his greatness and his work ethic were heartbroken that he had to come out of such a battle on such a stage. Even his begrudgers realised that this final and this tournament had suddenly gotten a hell of a lot less interesting.
French and Portuguese fans alike applauded as Ronaldo literally had to be carried off out of what would probably be his last final with his country.
Slowly, the sympathy turned to adoration.
Amazing that Ronaldo seems to have elevated his reputation since coming off
The 31-year-old eventually emerged with the adrenaline that had been incredibly carrying him through a serious injury long gone. It looked like his knee had frozen and stiffened up but he trudged his way to the sideline and there he stood for the remainder of the game.
He watched on as his compatriots had to finish the job he started. And he was with them every step of the way – roaring and shouting, pointing and directing and passing on words of encouragement so the team – not Ronaldo – could succeed. So Portugal could succeed.
Eventually, it was Eder who stepped up in extra time to rock the host nation and gift the Portuguese with their first ever major tournament victory.
But he couldn’t have done it without Ronaldo.
“[Ronaldo] told me I would score the winning goal for the team,” the striker told Portuguese newspaper O Jogo. “He gave me this strength, this energy and it was vital.
“It was a goal I’ve been working for from the first minute of the Euros.
“For all the work we did, for all of the Portuguese, it’s fantastic. It’s well deserved and we should all be congratulated.”
The confidence Ronaldo provided obviously got through to Eder who professed the prophecy to manager Fernando Santos, who compared the player to an ugly duckling.
“When he came on he told me he would score,” Santos said. “The ugly duckling went and scored. Now he’s a beautiful swan.”