Cristiano Ronaldo has gushed plenty of times about how much winning the European Championship with Portugal last summer means to him. But he added some more context recently, arguing that winning with Portugal was different and more challenging than winning with Argentina, Germany or Brazil.
“Of course it’s good when you win Champions League, the (Spanish) league, Golden Ball, Golden Boot, but when you win something for your country, it’s completely different,” Ronaldo said in a mini-documentary Four Four Two released Friday. “The feeling is different.”
“The achievement to win for Portugal is not the same for Argentina or Brazil or Germany. It’s very, very – it’s more difficult.”
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Ronaldo laughed when he said that last line, as if he knew he was going to offend someone with it. And some fans have been quick to interpret Ronaldo’s comments as a dig to his contemporaries, particularly Lionel Messi. Basically, Ronaldo seems to be implying that Messi has it much easier with Argentina and the teammates Ronaldo has to play with on Portugal make his job tougher.
Here’s the thing, though: Ronaldo makes a pretty valid point.
Just compare the Argentina squad to the Portugal squad. Relatively few of Ronaldo’s teammates have prominent roles at top clubs, while Argentina is filled with starters at the world’s top clubs. If he was taking a dig at anyone, it could be argued it was directed at his own Portugal squad.
But the other reason Ronaldo’s comments are perfectly understandable is that Portugal has never won a major international title. Fans from Argentina, Brazil and Germany have had their share of successes to enjoy in a lifetime – each have won a World Cup in the last 30 years – but for the people of Portugal, the 2016 Euro win was unlike anything they’ve experienced.
“It’s the first time in the history of Portugal,” Ronaldo said. “You don’t know what it means for the Portuguese people. It’s a huge thing, you know. Personally, it was the best moment in my career, too.”
From that standpoint, Ronaldo’s comments make plenty of sense – even if they will still send Messi fans’ blood boiling.