LONDON – Cristiano Ronaldo was described as a different species and even earned praise from basketball great LeBron James after his jaw-dropping bicycle kick in Real Madrid’s 3-0 win at Juventus which likely sealed their place in the Champions League semi-finals.
“What planet did you come from?” asked the front cover of daily AS yesterday as it depicted Ronaldo’s awesome strike, his second goal of the night which proved a knockout blow to Juventus just as they were gaining in confidence in the second half.
Spanish newspaper Marca simply hailed the acrobatic strike as “The Goal” on its front cover. Inside, it described Ronaldo as “Di Stefano 2.0”, highlighting that Real had not beaten Juventus away since the late Alfredo di Stefano scored the only goal in a 1962 European Cup quarter-final first leg win.
Di Stefano is widely regarded as Madrid’s greatest ever player for leading them to five consecutive European Cups. Ronaldo, who is the only player alongside the Argentine to score in at least three European Cup finals, took another step to joining him on the throne with his phenomenal goal.
“Cristiano Ronaldo can now leave earth and start playing against the Martians. He has done everything here,” tweeted former Real teammate Alvaro Arbeloa after the goal, which even prompted Juventus supporters to rise to their feet in applause.
Real coach Zinedine Zidane clinched the club’s ninth European Cup with a whirlwind volley against Bayer Leverkusen in 2002 although the Frenchman admitted he was “a little bit jealous” of Ronaldo’s thumping strike.
There was even recognition from a giant of a different sport as three-time NBA champion James joined in the praise, telling Ronaldo in a post on Instagram: “that’s not even fair”.
Ronaldo had scored twice against Juventus in last year’s Champions League final win in Cardiff and took under three minutes of Tuesday’s quarter-final first leg to haunt the Italian giants again as he fired in Isco’s cut-back, netting for a record tenth consecutive Champions League game.
A four-time Champions League winner, Ronaldo is the leading scorer in Europe’s top competition for the seventh season in a row, on 14 goals in nine appearances this campaign, three from equalling his record of 17 strikes in the 2013-14 season.
Juventus fans have been left wondering whether their team were just the victims of Ronaldo’s brilliance or if the Turin side have been flattered all along by their Serie A results. Perhaps the biggest question mark concerns playmaker Paulo Dybala, who was sent off.
Coach Massimiliano Allegri had promised a “great performance” from the Argentine but ‘The Jewel’ did not quite live up to his billing, despite a lively and confident start.
He sent two free kicks into the Real wall and squandered a Juve counter-attack by kicking the ball out because Real’s Dani Carvajal was apparently injured. Dybala also reacted to the slightest touches by tumbling dramatically to the turf.
A studs-up challenge on Carvajal saw Dybala given sent off after he picked up a booking for a dive in the penalty area in the first half.