Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo.
Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo.

Phenomenal numbers to prove Ronaldo is King of Europe

FORGET the debate of Leo Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo vs Neymar.

The Champions League is Ronaldo's stage. Full stop.

Real Madrid's clash with Paris Saint-Germain was meant to signify a passing of the torch.

It was the stage on which Neymar had a chance to surpass Ronaldo and stake his claim as a future Ballon d'Or winner. PSG were early favourites for the title, Real (and Ronaldo) were going through one of the worst slumps in recent memory.

Instead, the five-time Ballon d'Or winner and master of the biggest stage proved his greatness. This was Ronaldo's night and his alone.

His two goals turned the tie just as PSG looked like they were edging ahead as the Portuguese attacker deliver a timely reminder that he remains the King of Europe.

 

Real Madrid's Marcelo (R) celebrates with coach Zinedine Zidane.
Real Madrid's Marcelo (R) celebrates with coach Zinedine Zidane.

Ronaldo's brace took his total tally to a phenomenal 11 in just nine games this campaign, and his overall UCL tally to 116.

If that wasn't enough, they were also Ronaldo's 100th and 101st for Real in the tournament - making him the first player in history to net a century of goals for a single club in European competition.

 

Symbolically, for those inclined to debate their freakishness, Ronaldo achieves the feat only marginally ahead of Messi who still sits on 97 for Barcelona.

In an era where Barcelona and Messi have staked claims to be the greatest player and team we've ever witnessed, Ronaldo has helped Real to three UCL titles and looks set to usher them into the final eight after a nightmare draw.

The pair have been undoubtedly the world's top two players for the better part of a decade, but when it comes to the Champions League, the numbers suggest there is no competition.

Not only has Ronaldo outscored Messi this UCL campaign, he's also outscored the entire Barcelona team who next face a challenge against Chelsea.

Ronaldo is the leading scorer in the competition, four strikes clear of next best placed marksmen Harry Kane and Roberto Firmino - with Messi perched well down the scoring charts on three.

This is also now the seven straight season Ronaldo has netted 10 or more goals in Europe, a statistic which sets him alone as the competition's greatest ever striker by some distance.

Messi sits second in that statistic, having done so twice consecutively and four times throughout his entire career.

 

Neymar is the heir apparent to the throne of world's best footballer, but on an anticipated night in Madrid, arguably the game's greatest ever player showed he's not done just yet.

A quiet game by the Brazilian's standards was met by a decisive performance from Ronaldo.

Ultimately, two moments of calmness and predatory instinct from the Portuguese legend might have decided the tie.

There has been no handing over of the baton just yet, and as far as Ronaldo is concerned, that moment might still be a long way off.

If ever a coach put their job on the line, it was Unai Emery heading into a must-win UCL tie.

Under the former Sevilla boss, Paris Saint-Germain have dominated the French competitions. But when you invest €222m in Neymar, it's continental domination that is a must.

After last year's incredible collapse against Barcelona, Emery is now under immense pressure to turn the Round of 16 tie around after falling 3-1 to Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Before the match, Emery made the incredible - and he said "tactical" - decision to drop skipper Thiago Silva from the starting line up.

 

Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar.

Silva was benched for the Ligue 1 fixture against Toulouse on the weekend, but Emery again opted for Presnel Kimpembe and Marquinhos against the 12-time European champions.

Real Madrid's Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates.
Real Madrid's Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates.

However good or not the performance was, PSG lost. Now they're at risk of again crashing out of the UCL in the early knockout stages, which cannot please their Qatari owners.

The result, should Real go on to do the business in Paris, will also ease huge pressure on Zinedine Zidane who like Emery had question marks about his future lingering.

Ultimately Zidane's decisions to bring on Lucas Vasquez, Gareth Bale and Marco Asensio to push for a winner paid off - they scored two late goals as PSG collapsed.

And Spanish publication Marca widely praised the coach.

 

"Zidane opted to take risks and it went well for him as he steered Real Madrid to victory over a team that some thought were unbeatable," they wrote.

"At the point of the game when the tide turned, his side had looked a little lost, pinned back in their own half and doing little other than defending the 1-1 scoreline.

"But then the Frenchman pulled the rabbit of out his hat and introduced two of the more attack-minded players he has with Lucas Vazquez on the right and Marco Asensio on the left."



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