A five-time Ballon d’Or winner has rarely struggled for goals, but he is yet to find the target when facing a familiar face on the international stage
The day after another memorable Champions League triumph for Real Madrid, the Blancos embarked on a customary open-top bus parade through the streets of the Spanish capital.
Front and centre of that particular procession were Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos – talismanic forward and enigmatic skipper.
Cheerleaders in chief, the pair passed a microphone between one another as they whipped an adoring fan base into frenzy.
“Thank you, guys. Until next year…”
There were smiles and no further hints from a Portuguese superstar that he is considering a summer move elsewhere, with the greatest of showmen putting on the kind of display which keeps the punters coming back for more.
Celebrations went on long into the night, with close friends within the Santiago Bernabeu camp revelling in an historic European triumph in which they all played some part, no matter how small.
That, however, was May 27.
On June 15, the picture will have shifted somewhat and those displaying a united front in Madrid will find themselves on opposing sides in Sochi.
The second day of the 2018 World Cup will deliver one of the most eagerly-anticipated encounters of the group stage, with Spain and Portugal set to rekindle old rivalries.
Ronaldo and Ramos will be back alongside one another, with the skippers of their respective nations ready to resume the roles they are so accustomed to filling at club level, just with a different colour shirt on.
The former is the man Portugal will be looking to for inspiration – a five-time Ballon d’Or winner, national hero and leader required to provide the attacking spark if the Euro 2016 winners are to make a mark on a global stage .
On the opposite side of the field will be a no-nonsense defender ready to do whatever it takes to emerge victorious.
While Ronaldo may be a Pele or Diego Maradona-esque figure for the millennial era, Ramos is the modern day equivalent of a Norman ‘Big Yer Legs’ Hunter or Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris .
The cap fits for both men, with their contrasting personalities leading them down different paths in the relentless pursuit of glory.
When they lock horns on Russian soil this summer, there promises to be fireworks.
Ramos has talked up the obvious qualities of Ronaldo in the past, telling Telefoot in December 2017 on the back of an uncharacteristically slow start to the season for the man who would end the campaign with another 44 goals to his name: “Our number seven is a striker like we have never seen before. He is already a legend and will be recognised as one of the best players in the history of football.”
All very nicey-nicey and precisely what you would expect from two men sharing a domestic dressing room.
Ramos has, however, also said the following of Ronaldo this season, with the Portuguese having ruffled a few feathers after refusing to celebrate with Isco during a 3-0 victory over Las Palmas in November: “Well, if we’re going to get into whether or not it’s something that’s annoying, I guess at the end of the day, it doesn’t help the interests of the team, right?”
As the old saying goes, “keep your friends close and your enemies closer”.
Ramos will certainly be in no mood for pleasantries when he comes face-to-face with Ronaldo in a matter of hours, with it his job to ensure that a man who dominates headlines wherever he goes is little more than a footnote in the fallout from an Iberian derby.
That has been the case in past meetings between the pair.
There are not too many sides or players that can claim to have contained Ronaldo down the years, but Spain and Ramos form part of an exclusive club.
In three previous meetings between the two Madrid colleagues, the man who has established a reputation as the most fearsome of goal-scoring machines is yet to find the target – with that barren run currently standing at 255 minutes.
At the 2010 World Cup, Ronaldo mustered just two shots on target during a 1-0 defeat to Spain in the last-16, while two years later in the Euro 2012 semi-finals he fired in five wayward efforts which failed to trouble Iker Casillas and was denied the opportunity to take a penalty in a shoot-out defeat for Portugal after putting himself down for the fifth spot-kick.
He also took in a friendly date with La Roja in November 2010 which, while delivering an impressive 4-0 victory for the Portuguese, saw a first-half yellow card represent his only notable entry on the post-match statistics board.
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Fernando Santos’ side are clearly no one-man team – their standing as European champions proves as much – but neither are they a galaxy of stars and do lean heavily on the man with No. 7 on his back.
Ramos is better than most at snuffing out that kind of threat, when his focus is narrowed on one particular target and his own brand of dark arts are freed to wreak havoc.
Mohamed Salah of Champions League final foes Liverpool can attest to that, and Ronaldo may soon find himself in a similar sporting boat if a rare goal duck stretches beyond the 300-minute mark on Friday as Portugal stumble out of the blocks.