Moscow: Portugal coach Fernando Santos compared Cristiano Ronaldo to a bottle of port, the fortified wine which famously gets better with age, after his latest match-winning goal for his country.
Five days after his hat-trick rescued Portugal in an opening 3-3 draw against Spain, Ronaldo’s fourth-minute header Wednesday clinched a 1-0 victory over Group B opponents Morocco.
Three previous tournaments yielded a return of just three goals for the five-time world player of the year, but Ronaldo is taking Russia by storm after netting four times in two matches.
Ronaldo is like port wine, he changes and gets better with age. He is constantly evolving
Fernando Santos – Portugal coach
“Cristiano Ronaldo is like a port wine, he changes as he ages,” said Santos. “He’s constantly evolving, unlike regular players he’s always evolving. He won’t be doing the same thing in two or three years and he’s not doing what he did four or five years ago. He knows himself well and knows what he needs to do.”
Ronaldo bagged a staggering 15 goals in European World Cup qualifying as Portugal reeled off nine consecutive wins to seal a fifth consecutive appearance.
It is likely to be a fourth and final World Cup for the 33-year-old, although he is showing little sign of decline after a fourth Champions League title in five seasons with Real Madrid. Ronaldo is intent on leaving his mark on this tournament, two years after helping Portugal to a first major title at Euro 2016.
“He’s a fantastic player. There are no words to describe him,” said Portugal teammate Bernardo Silva. “If he isn’t the best player in history, he’s at least one of them. He’s a fantastic player who tries to show it every time.”
Morocco defender Mehdi Benatia claimed his side proved they would have fended of the Euro 2016 champions’ challenge, but for Ronaldo. “He’s absolutely exceptional. Perhaps that word isn’t even strong enough.”