Cristiano Ronaldo’s track record at club level has been quite unbelievable from when he left Sporting Lisbon as a promising teenager to join Manchester United, all the way up to the current day as a Real Madrid superstar. The 27-year-old is well and truly in his prime, and has started to shake off some of the criticism that sees him in Lionel Messi’s shadow. However, this summer will see Ronaldo’s biggest test yet, as he looks to prove that he is as good as the Argentine attacker, and greats of yester-year.

Since winning the Ballon d’Or in 2008, Ronaldo has been adjudged to be a fitting and close number two to the mercurial Barcelona forward in the debate over who the planet’s best football player is. There were a few details and facts that debaters frequently pulled out to back up Messi’s case as the world’s finest, which has been aided by three consecutive Ballon d’Or’s for the Blaugrana hero.

However, CR7 has simply refused to accept this criticim. Messi has ridden the crest of a wave at Barcelona, with Pep Guardiola’s men simply steamrollering allcomers over the last number of seasons. However, under Jose Mourinho’s tutelage Los Blancos have reclaimed the Primera Division title this term, with Ronaldo central to this with a spell-bounding 46 league goals. Although Messi finished top goalscorer in the division with 50 strikes, Ronaldo has had a record-setting year. He became the quickest player in Real Madrid history to score 100 goals for the club – reaching this momentous milestone in 91 games. He scored against every single La Liga team this term, without exception.

Ronaldo has been labeled as a player who does not do it on the biggest stage, with Messi and Barcelona getting the better of the attacker and Real Madrid in Clasicos over recent seasons. However, the 2-1 win for Mourinho’s men against Barcelona this season at Camp Nou to all but seal the La Liga title put this theory to bed, as Ronaldo duly stepped up with the winner.

Past greats of the game such as Pele, Diego Maradona and Johan Cruyff have all taken their place in legend due to their exploits on the international scene. With Messi and Ronaldo’s names set to be included in the company of the afore-mentioned three as some of the planet’s best ever players once they hang up their boots, one thing is missing – international tournament glory.

Messi has been critiqued as saving his best form for Barcelona, with little impact on World Cups or Copa Americas. Ronaldo likewise has not been able to recreate his Real Madrid performances for the Iberian nation, without the likes of Xabi Alonso, Mesut Ozil and Karim Benzema in support.

Make no mistake, Portugal are up against it this summer. Being drawn against Netherlands and Germany in the group stages is a blow, and Denmark will provide a tough fixture also. It is now that CR7 must propel himself in folklore and lead an unfancied, transitional and outgunned Portugal team to success. If Ronaldo can singlehandedly lead Paulo Bento’s men to anywhere near the Euro 2012 trophy, the debate over the world’s best player would be sure to take a twist in the Real Madrid man’s favour.

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Barcelona Euro 2012 Portugal Real Madrid