Ronaldo's greatest assist: His impact from the touchline

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  • An animated Cristiano Ronaldo spurred his team on from the touchline

    If you were to use a computer program to generate the physical dimensions and attributes of the ideal modern day player, the prototype you’d end up with would be awfully close to Cristiano Ronaldo.

    The Portuguese superstar is quite simply one of the greatest athletes of all time and certainly one of the best to ever grace a football pitch. It’s no surprise then that he was the centre of attention ahead of the Euro 2016 final against France on Sunday night.

    Ronaldo wasn’t at his best during the tournament but still made telling contributions when Portugal’s time of need came around, specifically in their do-or-die encounters with Hungary and Wales.

    It seemed cruel that the three-time Ballon d’Or winner was struck down just when his country needed him the most and at a time that seemed to be tailor-made for him.

    The stage was set and millions around the world watched with bated breath in anticipation of one moment of brilliance from this phenomenally gifted footballer that could decide the game and help his team win their first major trophy.

    However, a clumsy challenge from Dimitri Payet seemed to have denied him his moment of glory. But Ronaldo is a relentless perfectionist and he wasn’t going to let a little thing like having to leave the pitch injured keep him from affecting the game in a big way.

    The Real Madrid forward played his part behind the scenes at half-time as several players spoke of his inspiring half-time team talk, after he was given the license to address the group by coach Fernando Santos.

    Quietly operating in the shadows has never been Ronaldo’s style and it wasn’t long before he reclaimed much of the spotlight from the touchline where his animated gestures and pumped-up demeanour seemed to transmit to the players.

    The supporting cast responded with an inspiring committed display. Nani, Quaresma, Pepe and Rui Patricio, players who have served in Ronaldo’s shadow for several years, weren’t daunted by the responsibility thrust upon them and effortlessly rose to the occasion.

    It now seems fitting the way things unfolded. In beating France without Ronaldo, Portugal shrugged off the one-man-team tag once and for all. Yet, the Real Madrid star was still afforded his share of the spotlight and succeeded in a different aspect.

    For years now Ronaldo hasn’t just been Portugal’s best player or talisman. He’s been a symbol of sorts and on Sunday night, he exceeded as such.

    Credit must go to Santos as well. The Portuguese coach didn’t take the easy route during the tournament of playing Ronaldo in his favoured left-flank role from where he’d have enjoyed more freedom but most certainly have cost the team defensively.

    An attacking triumvirate of Ronaldo, Nani and Quaresma would’ve been tempting but he resisted the urge and opted for a more pragmatic, compact system with the in-form Nani supporting the 31-year-old and Quaresma proving to be exceedingly effective off the bench.

    It’s that formula that carried them through to the final where things didn’t go according to plan but nevertheless lived up to their wildest dreams.

    Apart from second half performances against Hungary and Wales, Portugal have been the most underwhelming team to make it to the finals of the European Championship since – ironically – Greece, the very team that beat them in the 2004 final.

    This time, it was Portugal’s turn to frustrate, to graft, grind and churn out a result that they may not be deemed as worthy of as the host nation for a variety of reasons but unquestionably deserve.