It’s hard to think of a more quintessentially Cristiano Ronaldo performance than the show he put on today. Everything that makes him the all-time great that he is—from the tangible things like his speed, power, technique, and finishing, to the abstract ones like his determination and preternatural instincts—were on display on a day where he scored a hat trick to deliver Real Madrid the Herculean comeback against Wolfsburg in the Champions League they so desperately needed.
In the irrelevant and distracting conversation that is the Ronaldo vs. Messi debate, much of the nuance that makes each player irreducibly unique is lost. As we’ve said before, one of the things that makes Ronaldo the player sui generis and special is his unquenchable thirst to make the decisive touch that turns crosses into goals, dead balls into living, lurching, knuckling shots, and losses into wins. All three of his goals he dispatched with a single sweep of his foot or flick of his head, with just three simple movements taking what threatened to be a monumental calamity and making it into an iconic night of celebration.