Cristiano Ronaldo has the opportunity to add to his legacy on Sunday when Portugal take on France in the final of Euro 2016.
Victory over the hosts would gift Ronaldo his first international trophy, to go with the numerous honours he’s won at Manchester United and Real Madrid.
Portugal haven’t been the best team in France but that simply doesn’t matter. They are 90 minutes away from lifting the Henri Delaunay Cup 12 years after suffering heartache in the same tournament.
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Ronaldo was a part of the team that lost 1-0 to Greece in the final of Euro 2004 and he’s had to wait a long time for an opportunity to seek redemption.
The Real Madrid star has spoken of his desire to succeed with Portugal and, on an individual standpoint, victory on Sunday would see him become the heavy favourite to win a fourth Ballon d’Or.
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That would put him one behind Lionel Messi and would further intensify the argument as to who the best player of the 21st century is.
The scout who discovered Ronaldo in 1996, Aurelio Pereira, revealed recently that he saw a “prodigious” talent when he brought him to Sporting Lisbon, and Ronaldo never strayed from that path to becoming one of the best players in history.
He proved his extraordinary talent in Wednesday’s semi-final win over Wales, leaping 2.61 metres to head Portugal’s opener.
That Ronaldo was able to pull something like that off is a result of years and years of hard work.
It’s something that Sir Alex Ferguson witnessed during their time together at United, and would later go on to tell Germany and Bayern Munich legend Franz Beckenbauer all about.
“I'll always remember the day once when I got together with Alex Ferguson, the legendary trainer and manager at Manchester United where Ronaldo was still playing,” Beckenbauer told AS.
“Sir Alex told me: ‘Franz, you cannot imagine a harder-working player than Ronaldo. Whether it's before training, or afterwards - day in and day out, he is practicing his dribbling, his free kicks.’
“When talent, willpower and hard work come together, that's when you get world-class."
Like many around the world, Beckenbauer was left in awe when Ronaldo gave Portugal the lead in the semi-final.
The 1974 World Cup winner added: “Ronaldo’s header making it 1-0 in the semi-final against Wales - the huge surprise team this year - is a tournament highlight that will be remembered.
“The way he rose up and seemed to stop in mid-air, with his back stiff and his neck stiff in order to put power behind the ball, cannot be executed any better. You won't find this anywhere else in the world.”
Is Cristiano Ronaldo the best player of the 21st century? Let us know in the comments section below!
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