By Lee Dover
Cristiano Ronaldo is a man who has more debate around him than tasting marmite for the very first time – you are either going to love him or loathe him.
In some people’s eyes, he is a god among men on the football field, with his dazzling skills always gaining a round of applause and his showboating behaviour never ceasing to entertain.
On the flip side, there will be a small collection of football fans – OK, make that a fair few stadiums filled with agitated supporters – who hope Real Madrid star Ronaldo (27) will fall flat on his face when he tries to dribble a ball through a defensive line. A professional winker, if you will.
There is just something about the Portuguese whizkid that will split fans right down the middle, but one thing which is undeniable is just how phenomenal Ronaldo’s career has been to date.
Ever since he hopped on a plane and left the sunny climes of Sporting Lisbon for the fortress that is Manchester United’s Old Trafford, Ronaldo has been scaling the football ladder at an exceptional rate.
Let the stats speak for themselves. FIFA World Player of the Year in 2008; an untouchable 42 goals in all competitions in 2007/08; La Liga’s top scorer in 2010/11; another 46 goals in Spain’s top division a season later.
So, with all of these feats behind him and his prime years just approaching, surely Euro 2012 is going to be the tournament for the winker to shine. Right?
Actually, his first appearance in this year’s major international football competition was with a Portuguese outfit who had to try to stem the powerhouse that is Germany.
Unfortunately, the Germans fought their way through and Ronaldo had a mostly forgettable performance. Right, no worries, the second match against Denmark would be the winker’s time to show his class.
Well, unless by shine you mean missing a glorious opportunity from just a few yards out when having only a Danish keeper to dink a ball over, on top of chance after chance which just went begging, it was fair to say that Ronaldo had a torrid time on the pitch.
But as the old saying goes, it was a case of third time lucky when it came to the Portuguese star finally bringing his domestic class to the international stage.
Not only did Ronaldo’s brace either side of half-time help Portugal to come back from behind against the ever-resilient Netherlands, but it also saw the team slip through into the Euro 2012 knockout stages via the back door.
It could well be a case of going from strength to strength for Ronaldo from here, starting with their quarter-final clash with the Czech Republic. Or perhaps more tears welling up in the winker’s eyes if you are still not convinced about him.
If you’re in the former camp, Paddy Power offers odds of 7/2 that Ronaldo will finish as the top goal-scorer in Euro 2012. If you are less convinced, the Czech Republic are 4/1 to break Ronaldo’s heart and dump the Portuguese out of the competition.