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‘I’ve won five Champions Leagues, these guys zero’! - How Ronaldo became Atletico's public enemy No.1

23:02 BST 15/09/2019
Cristiano Ronaldo Juventus Real Madrid split
The Portuguese star has very few friends at the Wanda Metropolitano after his antics and exploits with both Juventus and Real Madrid over the years

There are few greater rivalries between an opposing player and club than Cristiano Ronaldo’s with Atletico Madrid.

After spending nine years with city rivals Real Madrid, such conflict is understandable.

Ronaldo scored 22 goals against Los Rojiblancos for Real, one of those in the 2014 UEFA Champions League final triumph, while he also hit the winning spot-kick as Atleti were defeated in the final again two years later.

But despite enjoying great success against Diego Simeone’s men while in Spain, it is since moving to Juventus that the 34-year-old’s feud with Atleti has moved to another level.

The pair met in last season’s Champions League, albeit with more at stake than this year.

Atletico emerged 2-0 winners in the first leg of their last 16 tie, with Simeone’s side putting on an exceptional display to stifle Ronaldo and company.

When Jose Gimenez scored his and his team’s second of the night, his manager couldn’t contain himself, spinning around to the fans and grabbing his crotch in celebration.

“It means we have balls, a lot of balls. I did it as a player in Lazio-Bologna and I did it again to show our fans that we have cojones,” the 48-year-old explained.

Meanwhile, Ronaldo’s response to the result was much different.

“I have five Champions Leagues, these guys zero,” he declared in the mixed zone after the game, having spent the game holding up five fingers to the home fans to further emphasise his achievements. 

From any other player, it would have been a bizarre act of arrogance following a potentially devastating defeat and poor performance.

From Ronaldo, though, it was a warning.

Just under three weeks later, the forward followed up his big talk by walking the walk, scoring a hat-trick as Juventus turned the tie around and sent Atletico crashing out.

He wasn’t done there. After matching Lionel Messi for most career Champions League hat-tricks, claiming his eighth, the Portugal international imitated Simeone’s ‘cojones’ celebration.

“It had to be a really special night and it was,” Ronaldo said.

“That’s why Juve signed me.”

It was a familiar feeling for Atletico and their fans, watching the Portuguese star succeed at their expense.

On top of his heroics in finals, Ronaldo had single-handedly eliminated Atleti in the 2017 Champions League semi-finals - scoring a first leg hat-trick at the Bernabeu - while he also provided the assist for Javier Hernandez’s 88th minute winner in the quarter-finals in 2015.

His Copa del Rey semi-final double left Los Rojiblancos’ faithful heartbroken in 2014 too, as did his two goals across two legs in the quarter-finals of 2011.

In fact, only nine times have Atletico got the better of Ronaldo, with the forward winning 16 of their 31 meetings. He has 25 goals and eight assists to show from them.

It’s no wonder he goes into their clashes with such confidence, telling Patrice Evra after last season’s first leg defeat that he would "smash" them at the Allianz Stadium.

“This just shows you the confidence, the anger, the determination from the best player in the world,” Evra said.

It’s confidence shared by his team, too.

“He has scored so many goals in the Champions League and having him with us is a great advantage,” former Juve boss Massimiliano Allegri said before the second leg, adding that he expected a great performance from Ronaldo “because it is an important match and he is exalted in competitions like this”.

At the same time, with his record against them and acts of supreme confidence/arrogance, it’s no wonder he is Atletico’s pantomime villain.

"I hope that fans don't push me by name calling me and saying unsporting things about me again," Ronaldo said after this season’s group stage draw was made.

But with taunts and gestures like those from last season, the 34-year-old is able to give as good as he gets. Almost 10 years on from their first meeting, this incredible rivalry is still burning.

And there is no chance of that flame dying out this season. On Wednesday, there will be popcorn at the ready for what promises to be another thrilling instalment of this ongoing drama.