‘Like a League Two centre half’: Gary Neville lauds ‘mesmerising’ heading ability of Cristiano Ronaldo… before the record European Championship goalscorer immediately adds to his Portugal tally against Germany (but this time with his left foot!)
- Cristiano Ronaldo has now scored 12 European Championship goals – a record
- Five of those goals have been headers and Gary Neville was glowing in his praise
- Neville credited his former Manchester United team-mate for honing his craft
- Patrick Vieira highlighted Ronaldo’s aggression as a secret to his heading ability
- Both Neville and Vieira also commended Ronaldo’s relentless drive for greatness
- Graeme Souness said that only Lionel Messi’s achievements are more impressive
- Find out the latest Euro 2020 news including fixtures, live action and results here
Gary Neville lavished praise on former Manchester United team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo for his ‘mesmerising’ heading ahead of Portugal’s crunch match against Germany.
The Juventus forward now has a record 12 European Championship goals after adding two to his tally in Portugal’s opening game of this year’s tournament to move him ahead of legendary France midfielder Michel Platini, before netting the opener against Joachim Low’s men with his left foot after instigating a lightning-fast counterattack by heading away a Germany corner.
Five of Ronaldo’s 11 goals in the competition have come with his head and Neville marvelled at the 36-year-old’s ability.
Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice against Hungary to become the top scorer in Euros history
Gary Neville witnessed at close quarters how Ronaldo honed his heading into a potent weapon
‘It’s mesmerising,’ Neville said on ITV ahead of the pivotal Group F match as they watched a clip of Ronaldo’s goal in 2004 against Greece.
‘This is the (19-year-old) Cristiano Ronaldo that’s the main target in a tournament. His leap, his bravery when he heads it… honestly it’s like a League Two centre half, the way he heads the ball.
‘He’s absolutely incredible. His spring, his timing. This one is a fantastic goal (against the Czech Republic in 2012).
‘It’s the speed of moment, the intelligence, the timing of the header, the accuracy, the technical aspect.
‘Everything is absolutely perfect and this didn’t exist when he first came to United. This has been developed, grown, nurtured and it’s just perfection.’
Fellow pundit Patrick Vieira commented: ‘I think he just has this desire to score the goal and the way that he’s jumping, the number of times that he remains in the air, the timing and the aggression to head the ball, that is why he’s really strong in the air.’
Ronaldo’s first Euros goal came in the opening game of the 2004 tournament against Greece
A similarly majestic header in 2004 saw off Netherlands to help Portugal through to the final
Neville added: ‘(Ronaldo was) very frustrating in the first 12 months at the club, but once he’d settled down it’s been a relentless pursuit of greatness. Longevity is important to him.
‘You mention some of the great sport stars who have gone on forever and I think he will, his body is in great shape. He’ll do everything he wants to do in life, he’s got everything on and off the pitch.’
Vieira said it was Ronaldo’s attitude that marked out the five-time Ballon d’Or for greatness: ‘He’s a complete talent, but what represents him is the drive.
A diving effort in 2012 was the winner against Czech Republic in the quarter-finals in Warsaw
‘I think he aims to be the best-ever football player and I think he’s giving himself a chance to achieve that because his work ethic is unbelievable.’
Graeme Souness feels that despite Ronaldo’s greatness, his feats have been somewhat overshadowed.
‘I think he’s been unlucky to be around the same time as Messi because otherwise you’d be talking about him as easily the best player in the world,’ the former Newcastle boss said.
After a delicious flicked finish against Hungary in 2016, an astonishing leap soon followed
Ronaldo then headed home brilliantly against Wales before Portugal beat France in the final
‘I think there’s been Messi, then Ronaldo, then a long way down to find the next best, Neymar maybe. I think you have to put him in the top three people to ever kick a ball.
‘He’s modified his game, now he plays the width of the penalty box and he’s still a real threat.
‘He’s a freak of nature. I would imagine, to manage, he’s a complete dream. If you’ve got your top man, every day he’ll be at it in training.’