Cristiano Ronaldo was under no illusions when he signed for Juventus last July.
— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) March 12, 2019
His winning strike — his eighth Champions League hat-trick — sparked wild celebrations inside Juventus Stadium and must have made those in the higher echelons at Real Madrid ponder whether they should have ever let him leave.
Juventus won’t care though. Not since 1996 has it won the Champions League and after defeats in the 2015 and 2017 finals, Ronaldo was brought in for one purpose and one purpose only — to win the title.
His $117 million move from Real Madrid was never about ensuring an eighth successive domestic league title for Juventus, nor was it about selling shirts or bolstering the brand.
For Juventus, it was for nights like Tuesday where one of football’s truly global superstars provided yet another reminder, why at the age of 34, he’s not done yet.
And yet, Ronaldo, the competition’s leading scorer with 121 in 159 games going into this contest, had struggled in this season’s Champions League.
Ahead of the second leg in Turin, Ronaldo had managed just one goal in his six Champions League games this season, his lowest tally in a single campaign since 2005/06 where he failed to score at all.
According to Who Scored, of the 69 players to have had 10 or more shots, Ronaldo had the worst conversion rate (2.9%) than any other player in the Champions League this season.
And yet, when Juventus needed its talisman the most, the man who always seems to thrive on the biggest stages of all, Ronaldo delivered.
Juventus, so insipid in the first leg three weeks ago, dominated the opening stages and felt it should have gone ahead after just four minutes when Ronaldo challenged Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak, and the ball fell to Juventus’ Giorgio Chiellini to fire home.
As Juventus players rushed to celebrate, referee Bjorn Kuipers ruled out the goal for a foul by Ronaldo.
Unperturbed, the home side pressed on and eventually found a way through when Ronaldo powered home a header from close-range after meeting Federico Bernardeschi’s cross.
Four minutes after the interval it was 2-0, this time Ronaldo meeting Joao Cancelo’s cross from the right to head the ball inches over the goalline.