With the start of Euro 2012 just over a week away, Goal.com International's Portugal expert Luis Mira profiles Seleccao and Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo
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From a little boy playing in the streets of Madeira to a worldwide sensation amassing nearly €30 million a year at Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo's story seems to be written in the stars. At the age of 27, the gifted attacker has won almost all there is to win and he will undoubtedly figure among the legends of Portuguese football, next to the likes of Eusebio and Luis Figo.
Going into Euro 2012, Ronaldo is already the fifth-most capped player of all time for the Seleccao, with 87 appearances, and he has featured in 32 more games than his closest suitor in the squad for Poland and Ukraine - Raul Meireles, who has 55 caps to his name. The Real Madrid ace is also the top scorer in the 23-man party, with 32 international goals, and he is just 15 goals away from equaling Pauleta, the top goalscorer in the Seleccao’s history.
But Ronaldo's role in the team goes far beyond mere stats: he is in the main attacking reference on the team and carries on his shoulders the hopes of more than 10 million Portuguese people.
The former Manchester United star, who became the most expensive footballer in history when he joined the Blancos in 2009 in a €94m deal, enters the tournament in sensational form, having scored a staggering 60 goals in all competitions in 2011-12 as he helped his team towards their first Liga title in four years.
|“If there is justice in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo will win the Ballon d’Or. He scores with his head, from set-pieces, 30 metres out, in counterattack … he does everything"
- Jose Mourinho
However, when compared to his club form, no one can argue that Ronaldo has been largely disappointing for Portugal in recent years. Rarely has he been able to turn in the same kind of performances for the national team as he has done for Real Madrid, or previously at Manchester United.
Relative failure at international level is something that has also afflicted Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi, who for the last few years has been involved in a fascinating duel with Ronaldo for recognition as the best player in the world.
"If there is justice in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo will win the Fifa Ballon d’Or," said Madrid coach Jose Mourinho about his protege. "He is a very special player, the most complete of all. He scores with his head, from set-pieces, 30 metres out, in counterattack … he does everything."
As the Barcelona forward is unable to take part in the Euros, all eyes will be on Ronaldo, who is arguably the competition’s biggest name. With Portugal drawn alongside Germany, Netherlands and Denmark in the group stage, Portugal need the 27-year-old to be at the top of his game in order to survive the 'Group of Death'.
A successful month in Poland and Ukraine will maximise Ronaldo's chances of beating Messi to the Golden Ball, and will also silence the critics who continue to doubt his ability to perform on the international stage. Ronaldo is unworried by the doubters, though: "People whistle me because I am good-looking, rich and a great footballer. They are jealous of me."Follow Luis Mira on