Cristiano Ronaldo has never had a problem motivating himself – he’ll sprint the length of the pitch to get a fourth goal in an already-won unimportant league game – but even he will have extra motivation for this particular match.
Against Paris Saint-Germain, he can score his 100th Champions League goal for Real Madrid. And he can do it under the nose of the pretender to his crown, Neymar – the player his club wanted to sign last summer, ultimately to replace him.
In the end, selling Ronaldo to PSG and paying Neymar’s buy-out clause was out of Real Madrid’s reach because the French club bought him instead. It still hurts Ronaldo that they even considered it – that ego is as big as the Bernabeu, it’s helped him get where he is today and it will drive him on now.
Cristiano Ronaldo is preparing to take on Paris Saint-Germain with Real Madrid on Wednesday
Neymar is hoping to fire PSG to Champions League glory and make a personal statement
Over the years the goal celebrations have varied but one of his favourites has always been pointing to his chest and then to the pitch and telling the world ‘I’m here’. That will feel better than ever if he gets the chance to do it against PSG.
There was something of the ‘I’m still here’ about his whole performance against real Sociedad last weekend. He scored three but might easily have had five with a shot on to the post and a late chance missed.
He also made the first goal inside 40 seconds, setting the tone of the confidence-boosting Real Madrid win. It was his warm-up, the real thing comes now.
The opposition will be much tougher. Sociedad stood aside and waved Real through. PSG’s forte might not be defence but they still defend far better than Madrid’s mid-table opponents on Saturday. There will be less space and he’ll be up against three-quarters of a Brazil back four that will include old foe Dani Alves.
Ronaldo is the reigning Ballon d’Or winner, while Neymar desperately covets the award
The superstars are vying for individual supremacy as well as team glory this week – both believe that they are the world’s No 1 player and are ready to prove it on the biggest stage
The whole season is at stake and so is Ronaldo’s reputation. He was on top of the Ballon d’Or podium last year and also won FIFA’s The Best. He wants to be there again next December but the competition is more intense than ever.
Lionel Messi refuses to grow old (‘Tonight we find out who the second best player in the world is’, quipped the Catalan press on Wednesday morning) and Neymar – more puffed up than ever now that he is strutting around a smaller yard – looks ready to start winning the individual honours that Ronaldo still craves.
If the FIFA ‘Best’ and Ballon d’Or awards are decided by the world cup and the Champions League then Brazil’s status as favourites for Russia can only help the PSG man. Ronaldo needs to win a third straight European Cup, and first he needs to win his personal duel with Neymar.
Ronaldo shows off his huge collection of personal awards in Madeira recently
But it could be Neymar who usurps him should the Brazilian storm the Bernabeu
RONALDO VS NEYMAR – STATS THIS SEASON (ALL COMPETITIONS)
|Shots, Total (inc. Blocks)
|Shots on Target
|Shot Conversion Rate %
|Chances Created (inc. assists)