Cristiano Ronaldo get gold KING

Cristiano Ronaldo pure gold KING

Cristiano Ronaldo can underline his claim to be the best player in the world against Roma on Wednesday

Who is the best player in the world? Rafael Benitez has a standard response. “It’s impossible,” the Liverpool manager likes to say. “It could be someone we don’t know who is playing in the second division in Argentina.” So that’s what he was thinking when he took transfer market punts on hapless Sebastian Leto and Gabriel Paletta. In theory, Benitez could still be right. In all probability he is just being contrary. Sometimes the obvious batters you over the head. Cristiano Ronaldo is making the rest of the game concussed.
It is becoming impossible to ignore Ronaldo’s claim to be the definitive answer to football’s favourite pub question. In Rome on Tuesday his Chilean opponent, David Pizarro, was left complaining about the Portuguese youngster’s tricks. His gripes sounded sourer than those of an audience volunteer who asks for a refund after being embarrassed by a hypnotist. Pizarro said: “There’s no doubt he [Ronaldo] has quality but it’s also true that he has a big head.” And he would not have been the only South American based in Italy to be offended by Ronaldo’s extrovert, match-winning performance. In Milan, Kaka must have been cursing. The Brazilian has spent two years being almost universally regarded as football’s finest exponent, and he has the talent to reassert himself, but right now Ronaldo deserves the accolade.
We must wait until December for the next time the World Player of the Year is awarded, a title won by Kaka in 2007. In the meantime, a more famous crown is within Ronaldo’s grasp. The European Golden Shoe, handed to the best league goalscorer, is rich in history and will forever be associated with its inaugural winner, a committed Ronaldo fan who knows him well. It is his compatriot, Eusebio, who was the first winner in 1968.
Only one Englishman has his name on the Shoe and, oddly, it is Kevin Phillips, who won it after scoring 30 times in his annus mirabilis of 1999-2000. Curiously, given that among the continent’s big five leagues, the English top division is seen as the most open, Phillips is one of only three players to scoop the Golden Shoe while based in this country. The others are Ian Rush and Thierry Henry, a two-time winner. No Manchester United player has ever held the title.
The Golden Shoe, administered by the publishers of World Soccer, uses a weighting system to give players in the major leagues a chance against the strikers from such as the Albanian and Faroese divisions who would otherwise have it sewn up. Goals scored in the best divisions, such as the English Premier League, are awarded two points; those in the intermediate divisions, such as the Scottish Premier League, 1.5 points; and those in the weakest divisions, such as the League of Wales, a single point. It is why Rhys Griffiths of Llanelli, with 37 points, is sixth in the standings despite scoring 37 times compared to Ronaldo, who has scored 26 league goals and has 52 points. Fernando Torres and Emmanuel Adebayor hold fourth and fifth places respectively, but Adebayor is a little too far behind, and while Torres is capable of the type of heavy goal burst needed to take him ahead of Ronaldo, with Liverpool concentrating on Europe the chances of him doing so are slim.
Nor does Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, third in the table, seem much danger to the Portuguese. The Ajax striker has already scored more times (29) but goals in the Dutch league are only worth 1.5 points and Huntelaar is running out of games. It leaves Sevilla’s Brazilian maverick, Luis Fabiano, as the only player likely to deprive Ronaldo, a lover of coloured footwear, from taking gold. Fabiano is four behind Ronaldo but Sevilla have two games more than Manchester United remaining in their league campaign.
If Ronaldo is often the victim of rough play, Fabiano was once one of its keenest perpetrators. During his early career his misdemeanours were almost as numerous as his goals. On one occasion, in the Copa Libertado-res, an opponent from River Plate had his neck marked by Fabiano’s studs. Mr Angry only calmed down when he worked under Sevilla’s former manager, the serene Juande Ramos.
The similarity between Ronaldo and Fabiano is that neither began as heavy scorers. Fabiano has 22 goals in 23 games this season but had previously scored 22 in 75 games. Ronaldo’s first year at United brought six goals in total; his second nine but only five in the league, and in Europe he was outscored by David Bellion. His third season saw Ronaldo reach double figures for the first time but it was only in his fourth campaign, 2006-07, that he became a scorer of substance. And yet his 23 goals last season, which seemed remarkable at the time for a wide player, now appear paltry beside his 36 strikes in all competitions in 2007-08.
Club records lie within Ronaldo’s reach. Denis Law, 44 seasons ago, is the last United player to reach 30 league goals for the season and the most ever scored was 32, by Dennis Viollett, in 1959-60. Law’s overall record for a season, 46 goals, is unlikely to be broken but all you need to know about how prolific Ronaldo has been is that he has already scored more than Ruud van Nistelrooy ever managed in a league campaign.
Sir Alex Ferguson has no specific explanation for Ronaldo’s development, regarding his scoring as merely one expression of a brilliant all-round game. “It is something we didn’t know he had,” said Ferguson. “When we signed him as a young player what enthused was his ability to attack defenders. He was always a wide player as a kid and we bought him on that basis. That’s why we keep playing him there, because it’s difficult to attack players in the wide positions.”
Ferguson surprised Roma by using Ronaldo as a central striker but does not imagine repeating the tactic on a regular basis. “Not when he can do what he does from the wing. But he could play anywhere, I’m telling you,” Ferguson said. “It’d be no problem.”
Bernd Schuster, Real Madrid’s manager, last week proclaimed Ronaldo the best in the world in what appeared to be another attempt by the Spanish club to unsettle United’s totem. “In a couple of years he [Ronaldo] may be wearing the white shirt at the Bernabeu.” Ferguson is not alone in wondering whether Schuster himself will still be at the Bernabeu in two years, given Real’s love of sacking managers, and reacted wearily. “We get used to it. It’s Real’s way of tapping the player and Uefa don’t do anything about it, so there’s no point bothering,” Ferguson said. “Ronaldo is delighted here. United is his place.”
Jonathan Northcroft

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