Then, against Wales in Lyon, against the one player who can claim to be as important for Real Madrid as Ronaldo is, or as complete in his skills, Ronaldo did it all again.
No European player in the modern era could claim to have been at the top for so long.Over the last few years, since turning 30, Ronaldo has managed to hold off the challenges of the next generation of European players.Santos knows exactly how to motivate Ronaldo and how to get through to him.When Santos took over he told Ronaldo that he could play wherever he chose, as long as he worked hard for his team-mates, and tried to bring them with him. Ronaldo is never going to be ‘one of the lads’ in the Portuguese dressing room, but he is a conduit between players and coach, and all the more important for that.It was Ronaldo who led the charge with four minutes left against Croatia, seeing his shot saved before Ricardo Quaresma bundled in the rebound.
It was Ronaldo who scored Portugal’s opening penalty kick against Poland, in a shoot-out they went on to win 5-4.
He is loving this new role so much that he cannot wait to take this young team with him to the World Cup in Russia in two years time.
The paternal influence of Santos is why Ronaldo has arrived at this tournament with far more commitment to his team-mates, and to the group, than he has often showed in the past.
The second was finished by Nani after Ronaldo drove the ball towards goal.
In the ocean of goals that is Ronaldo’s career, these are just four drops.
But Ronaldo’s performances as a whole, his conduct as captain and his leadership all point to a player who is more mature, thoughtful and focused as he now aims for a different type of achievement.