Cristiano Ronaldo's soccer talent has never been in doubt, the only problem has been questions raised over whether he tended to falter in the really big matches.
For Manchester United fans there are few doubts now after his extraordinary goal haul this season which has seen them land the Premiership — he scored the penalty that set them on their way in the final match against Wigan to take his overall total to 41 for the season including 31 in the league — and to the Champions League final where they play Chelsea next week.
However, Euro 2008 will present a new challenge for the twinklytoed winger, as the spotlight will be firmly on him and whether he can step up to the plate and inspire the Portuguese to go one better than last time and win the title.
With the “golden generation” of Luis Figo, Rui Costa and Pedro Pauleta finally retired and despite their nickname not having won one senior trophy, the weight of a nation’s hopes will fall on the 23-year-old from Madeira.
It seems rather unfair given that there remains a more experienced bunch of players who have been around the block, not least in Deco, Simao Sabrosa and Ricardo Carvalho but that is how high Ronaldo himself has raised the bar over the past few years.
For Portugal’s fiery coach Luiz Felipe Scolari there are no doubts about Ronaldo’s standing in the soccer ladder.
“According to me, Ronaldo is the best player in the world,” said “Big Phil,” who is certainly not a man to be argued with.
“And I hope that he will not just be the best with Manchester United, but also with the national side during Euro.
“Ronaldo has come on a lot as not only a player, but also and especially as a human being.
“However, the national side is not just dependant on Cristiano Ronaldo. If that was the case it would hardly be worth playing in the finals,” added Scolari, who gave Ronaldo his first cap back in 2003.
While Scolari may be a hard taskmaster and not afraid to discard top players — he left experienced midfielder Maniche out of the final squad — then Ronaldo’s club manager Sir Alex Ferguson is the maitre d’ of team chiefs who have no fear in tearing strips off the “stars.”