Ronaldo becomes first player to win all three major leagues
Cristiano Ronaldo has done it again! Different country, same result: a domestic title for the Portuguese superstar.
With Juventus having clinched the Scudetto with a 2-1 win over Fiorentina on Saturday, Ronaldo has become the first man to win Europe’s three major leagues: Serie A, La Liga and the Premier League.
The significance of this latest success will, of course, be debated. Firstly, it has arrived just four days after a demoralising Champions League elimination at the hands of a far more exciting but far less expensively assembled Ajax side.
In addition, this is Juve’s eighth consecutive Scudetto, won with fivegames to spare. At no point did it look like they wouldn’t retain their crown.
They were heavy favourites even before they signed Ronaldo from Madrid last summer. The arrival of the five-time Ballon d’Or winner merely made the probable inevitable.
Indeed, Antonio Cassano even claimed Ronaldo’s signing had secured the Scudetto until 2022, when the forward’s Juve contract is due to expire.
Ronaldo, though, felt he should be commended for broadening his horizons once again, even using his latest transfer as an opportunity to take a shot at his great rival, Lionel Messi, who looks increasingly likely to spend his entire career at Barcelona.
“I’ve played in England, Spain, Italy, Portugal and for my national team, while he’s still in Spain,” said Ronaldo.
“Maybe he needs me more. For me, life is a challenge. I like it and I like to make people happy.”
Zlatan Ibrahimovic wasn’t, though.
The Swedish striker – who has won titles in four countries (Netherlands, Italy, Spain and France) – took umbrage with the idea that Ronaldo’s Madrid departure was motivated by a desire to test himself in another league.
“Ronaldo talks about challenges but he decided to go to a club who have been winning the Serie A title with their eyes closed!” Ibra legitimately pointed out.
“Why did he not choose a club from a second division a few years ago? Try to become a champion with such a second-division [club] and lead them to the highest level.
“Moving to Juventus is not a challenge at all.”
Certainly, this season’s Serie A success wasn’t in the least bit taxing – either for Ronaldo or Juve.
They have been the outright leaders from match day two, winning 16 of their opening 17 fixtures to put the title race to bed by Christmas.
Indeed, their haul of 53 points from a possible 58 represented a new record for the halfway point of a Serie A season.
What’s more, Juve haven’t even played particularly well. They have been in cruise control for most of the campaign, playing effective but uninspired football, winning just five games by three goals or more.
It has been a sterile dominance. They have been nowhere near their best because they haven’t had to be.
They managed to beat Inter and Milan at home, and Napoli away, despite performing poorly. That’s how poor the level of competition has been for them.
Ronaldo has been predictably effective, with 19 goals, but he is only fourth in the Capocannoniere standings, three strikes behind 36-year-old top scorer Fabio Quagliarella, who is likely to be named player of the season for being the story of the season.
The 19-year-old Moise Kean, meanwhile, has arguably been the revelation of Juve’s campaign, not least because it’s hard to think of anyone else who has surpassed expectations.
Giorgio Chiellini has been his characteristically consistent self, and was sorely missed in the decisive Champions League quarter-final second leg against Ajax, while Wojciech Szczesny has proven a reliable replacement for Gianluigi Buffon.
The rest of their team-mates, though, have sparkled only occasionally.
Mario Mandzukic was a monster during the first half of the season but has faded since the turn of the year, while Paulo Dybala has played only in fits and starts and is no longer a guaranteed starter.
It’s not as if they were saving themselves for Europe either – Juve turned in only two impressive performances in the Champions League before being dumped out by Ajax: the 1-0 win at Manchester United in the group stages; and the exhilarating 3-0 second-leg victory over Atletico Madrid in the last 16.
Ronaldo was, of course, the star of the show that night in Turin and, in truth, it is at that level that the true value of his transfer will be determined.
Just like Neymar, he left Spain to play for a team where domestic titles are taken for granted. Both moves will be ultimately judged on results in Europe.
Becoming the first man to win a league in a third different country is undoubtedly a commendable achievement for Ronaldo – it demonstrates versatility and a willingness to experience a new club, new team-mates and a new environment – but, given Serie A’s painful lack of competition, it does little to strengthen Ronaldo’s claim on the title of the greatest of all time.
Winning the Champions League with a third different team – one that hasn’t lifted the European Cup since 1996 – well, that is the real challenge.
Pass that particular test and Ronaldo’s case to be considered the greatest will be compelling. Unlike Serie A, though, it’s not going to be easy.