The major reason Juventus paid $139 million to Real Madrid for Cristiano Ronaldo in 2018 was to win the UEFA Champions League and he must start paying off that massive investment by leading his team to a win over Lyon on Friday at the Allianz Stadium in Turin.
With a storied history, Juventus have won the Champions League just twice. The last time the ‘Old Lady’ attained the pinnacle of European football was in 1996 and they have been nearly men in 2015 and 2017, when they lost the final to Barcelona and Real Madrid, respectively. Therefore, their investment in Portugal’s talisman was with a simple command – lead us to the UCL Promised Land.
Ronaldo has won the Champions League at every club he has represented since moving away from Sporting Lisbon in 2003. He won it once with Manchester United in 2008 and four times with Real Madrid, including the three consecutive titles in 2016, 2017, and 2018.
The Portuguese, at 35, just won his second Serie A title, scoring 31 goals and shows no sign of letting up. Even though his speed on the ball has reduced, his goal scoring effectiveness remains as sharp as ever. But it has been a slow burner for Ronaldo in this season’s UCL because he has scored just two goals in seven UCL matches this season. But there is statistically no better player in UCL history, especially for scoring goals in the knockout stages. In 17 years of playing in the tournament, Ronaldo has scored the most goals –128 and assisted 40 more.
Rested for the inconsequential last Serie A game, his manager, Maurizio Sarri, told UEFA’s official website, “He [Ronaldo] is training in the right manner. Yesterday he scored an excellent goal in training. He played many games in a short time, he rested a little, and now he has trained with intensity and strength.”
Juventus have not been impressive since the lockdown was lifted and looked to have limped across the finish line, needing Ronaldo’s 10 goals in eight matches to be crowned champions ahead of Inter Milan. Against France’s Olympique Lyonnais, they face a team with a bit of rust as the French team have played only four games since France’s Ligue 1 was stopped when Covid-19 struck in March. Rudi Garcia’s team are coming off a loss in the French Cup to PSG, though holding the French champions to a 0-0 result, despite a red card, will have buoyed the spirits.
Lyon will also be buoyed by their first leg 1-0 victory over Juventus.
When the occasion arrives and beckons for a great player to make the difference, Ronaldo, throughout his career, has shown a penchant to lead the way. Juventus will look to their talisman to deliver another quarter-final ticket as their quest for a third UCL title gathers momentum.