Cristiano Ronaldo knows why Juventus spent £99.2 million to sign him last summer. It was for moments like Tuesdays' round-of-16 second leg against Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Champions League, when Ronaldo scored a hat trick to overturn a 2-0 aggregate deficit and send Juve into the last eight.
"It had to be a special night and it was, not just for the goals, but for the team and their incredible attitude. This is the mentality you need in the Champions League and we are on the right track."
"This is why Juve brought me in, to help on magic nights like this. Atleti are a really tough team to face, but we are strong too and proved we deserved to go through."
Two Ronaldo headers in the first half—one upheld only after a video review—leveled the tie after Atletico's 2-0 home win back in February. An 86th-minute penalty after Angel Correa felled Federico Bernardeschi in the box was coolly converted to continue his incredible career in Europe's top club tournament:
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Cristiano Ronaldo records & stats just tonight! 1️⃣ FIRST ever player to score 125 UEFA club competition goals 2️⃣ Has been involved in 77 UCL knockout goals in 77 games 3️⃣ Scored 25 goals in 33 career appearances vs Atletico 4️⃣ Joint-most UCL hat-tricks, with Lionel Messi (8) 🤯 https://t.co/XxQaFr00MA
As if to add to the aura of Ronaldo's near-legendary ability to deliver his best performances on the biggest stage, the 34-year-old appeared to predict his hat-trick heroics days earlier:
Atletico perhaps should have seen it coming, considering their first-hand experience of Ronaldo's ruthlessness during the business end of this competition. He netted a hat trick against manager Diego Simeone's team in the first leg of the 2017 semi-final—a tie Real eventually won 4-2 en route to another final.
Ronaldo's latest Champions League masterclass makes the hefty fee Juve paid for the then-33-year-old look like a bargain. The Bianconeri deemed the investment worthwhile if it meant acquiring the one man who could bring the continent's biggest prize to Turin for the first time since 1996.
His credentials make a Champions League win for Juve seem inevitable now that the prolific No. 7 is doing what he did so often for Real. His goals in clutch moments helped Los Blancos lift the trophy in four of the last five seasons, including each of the last three.
Even so, Ronaldo is preaching caution ahead of Friday's draw for the quarter-final and semi-final stages in Nyon: "It's too early to talk about the Final, let's take it one step at a time."
Those are wise words from a player who appears determined not to loosen his iron grip on the trophy coveted by Europe's elite clubs. Juventus know all about how Ronaldo seizes control, after his brace helped Real win the final 4-1 in Cardiff two years ago.
Now the veteran has earned a new moment to boast about when reliving his era-defining exploits.