Cristiano Ronaldo is improving with age according to Bernardo Silva — and after the heroics against Spain it is hard to disagree.
Since two goals against Deportivo La Coruna at the end of January he has 33 goals in 23 games for club and country, winning the Champions League for a fifth time along the way.
With his hat-trick in Sochi on Friday, Ronaldo became only the fourth player to score in four World Cups, joining Pele, Uwe Seeler and Miroslav Klose. His first was a penalty against Iran, 12 years ago today in Frankfurt and he has since moved on to a total of 84 Portugal goals.
‘Some players are fading at his age, that would be normal,’ said Manchester City winger Silva. ‘But he is not. He is getting better and better and I hope he will keep up this form over the next few games.
‘He is used to these kind of nights, with Portugal, Real Madrid and Manchester United, a few years ago. He has been amazing over more than 10 years.
‘It’s special to have a player like him alongside us. We have to enjoy that and to try to give him the best conditions so he can score more.’
Ronaldo’s dedication to his craft, fitness regime and relentless pursuit of records makes it impossible to dismiss the notion that he could still be going strong at the age of 37 when the World Cup moves to Qatar in 2022.
‘He is the best in the world,’ said Portugal boss Fernando Santos, after the 3-3 draw against Spain. ‘I’m so glad he is Portuguese and I hope in Qatar he will score again, in another World Cup.
‘More important than his physical form is his mental form. He has an incredible mind and incredible physical endurance. Even at 3-2 down, he was the one who raised the team and went on with absolute trust. That is innate but also he plays in great teams and is always in finals and that gives him a very different perspective. It’s great to have someone like that.’
Ronaldo’s game has changed. He has fashioned himself into a central striker who prides himself on execution in front of goal with all types of chances, be they headers, volleys, tap-ins or overhead kicks.
Although not electric as he once was, his pace threatens on the counter-attack and he is deadly from long range efforts or set-pieces. Mostly, however, his greatest strength is his ability to influence the game. ‘When he is playing like this anything is possible,’ said Silva. ‘You just give him the ball and he makes things happen.
‘There is a little bit more pressure on us because we are European champions. Other teams look at us in a different way since we won it.’