Cristiano Ronaldo and his Real Madrid side have a foot in the Champions League semifinals after dismantling Galatasaray 3-0 in the first leg. In the second leg (April 9), Real Madrid will need to keep their foot on the gas away from home and ensure their spot in the next round.
While they should make the semifinals with ease, that's not enough for Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese international needs to lead this club to Champions League glory to take his legacy to the next level.
Whether fair or not, Ronaldo is likely to always be compared with Lionel Messi. While Messi and his Barcelona side will win the league title, Real Madrid can salvage their season by winning the Champions League trophy. Not only will it be a huge feat for the club, but it will also propel Ronaldo individually in his drive to be considered better than Messi.
Should Barcelona go on to win the tournament, it will further separate Messi from the rest of the pack, including Ronaldo. Barcelona's recent success has already started to do this, as Messi is widely considered the best player in the world.
With a summer exit potentially looming, Ronaldo can't afford to end his Real Madrid career without reaching the pinnacle. Should Ronaldo leave this summer without winning the Champions League, he would have finished his four-year stint in Madrid with one league title and no European trophies.
The best-case scenario for Ronaldo is meeting up with Barcelona in the final. A head-to-head matchup of Ronaldo and Messi, Barcelona and Real Madrid would bring in more fans and anticipation than the already heavily watched final.
With millions and millions of eyes on the pitch, there would be nothing better for Ronaldo and his legacy than beating Messi for the most esteemed prize in European football.
A loss somewhere along the line in the Champions League would be a crushing blow to Ronaldo. Questions would start to rise about his value and worth heading into the summer. While he's still one of the top individual players in the world, it would definitely bring him back down to Earth with regard to comparisons with other players.
This is a golden opportunity for Ronaldo. His team is fully capable of beating anybody in the tournament, likely heading into the final four teams. He can't afford to squander the chance and open up the door for new waves of criticism.