Nobody would blame Cristiano Ronaldo if he were satisfied with his achievements or ready to take things a bit more easy as he approaches the age of 30. Few players in the history of the game have accomplished more, after all.
And it's not like he's slowing down. He's fresh off of winning the Ballon d'Or and a season that saw him score 51 goals in 47 games in Real Madrid's three major competitions. His achievements weren't just of the individual variety, as Los Blancos won La Decima, their 10th European title, and added a Copa del Rey triumph for good measure.
And consider this, from WhoScored.com on Twitter:
Dani Alves: Only Messi (312) & Ronaldo (308 have created more chances from open-play in La Liga since August 2009 than @DaniAlvesD2 (252)9/2/2014, 12:22:08 PM
But is Ronaldo ready to relax? Far from it, as he told Oliver Brown of The Telegraph:
Well, it was a fantastic year. We won the Champions League, we won La Decima, the trophy that Real Madrid had been looking for a lot. So this season we’re going to try to do the same, to win the Champions again, to win La Liga. And in terms of individual achievements I’m going to try to break my own records. I know it’s tough, but I’m going to try.
This shouldn't come as much of a surprise.
For all the talk about Ronaldo's preening, his prima-donna persona and his perceived me-first attitude in matches that his detractors are quick to point out, nobody can deny his work ethic or his desire to be the best player in the world. Ronaldo is a fabulous athlete, surely, but he has never assumed his athleticism would be enough.
So it would have been far more shocking if Ronaldo had revealed to the press that he was ready to just chill out and take it easy after last season. That version of him would have been as foreign as Lionel Messi suddenly deciding to talk in the third person and puffing out his chest in interviews.
For Ronaldo, it isn't as though he isn't without some source of motivation. After all, this year's World Cup was hugely disappointing for him, as Portugal bowed out in the group stage and the country's star looked like a shell of himself. His main highlight was the unbelievable assist on Silvestre Varela's game-tying goal in the dying moments against the United States.
He looked back on Portugal's performance at the tournament with Brown:
'It was difficult,' he says, sighing. 'It was a long, long season, many games, and at the World Cup we didn’t have the best experience: we lost to Germany, we drew with the USA, we won against Ghana. We tried hard, but there were too many injuries to important players.'
Ronaldo has indicated that he, too, was forced to play with an injured knee, but does not advance this as an excuse.
'It’s not easy. Compare the quality we have at Real to the national team, and it’s not the same. I’m together with my national team-mates only sometimes. We have only 10 million people in Portugal, so to find the top players is a struggle. This is the key to why Portugal have never achieved any important trophies, like the World Cup or European Championships. But we still believe. We have to be confident that one day it will happen. Maybe at Euro 2016, that’s the time we’re going to win something. I’m looking forward to that. I think it’s possible.'
If you think it has escaped Ronaldo that his chief rival, Messi, reached the World Cup final this year with Argentina, think again. If nothing else, the Portuguese superstar now has the motivation to lead Portugal to European glory in two years.
Not that Ronaldo seemingly needs all that much motivation, after all. The man has it ingrained in his DNA to achieve to be the best. And when that is your motivation, well, all of the trophies and individual achievements in the world aren't going to be satisfying enough to force you to slow down.
There's always another trophy. There's always another match to win. There's always another goal to score. Ronaldo has done enough to look toward the past and be satisfied.
Instead, he keeps looking to the future.
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