Cristiano Ronaldo was on our minds as we put together issue five of Howler—in particular, how to stop him. So we asked writer Thomas Unsworth to canvass some of the world’s best defenders for their tips on containing arguably the world’s most dangerous player.

Philipp Lahm, Bayern Munich and Germany:

“It's not possible to man-mark a player like that. The top players, like Ronaldo, Messi, and Ribéry, will change positions during a game, so if you man-mark him he will drag you out of position and the team will lose its shape. You have to mark him as a team—and be constantly aware that one moment he can be on the left side, then the next moment he can be on the right or down the middle.”

Tim Howard, Everton and the United States:

“With players like Ronaldo, you have to expect the unexpected. As a goalkeeper, you look at where a player is and know there is no danger in the position they are in. With Ronaldo, you can't do that—he can find that shot or find that pass in positions that 99 percent of players in the world couldn't. You have to be alert for the entire game, because he can create a moment of brilliance from nothing and punish you.”

Ashley Cole, Chelsea and England:

“I miss our battles that we used to have— he is the best player in the world, and you have to concentrate for 90 minutes. To win the battle, you have to stay close to him. There is the temptation with great players to let them run at you—but do that with him and you are in trouble, as he has two feet and great skills. You have to spend the entire game on top of him— you can't give him a second.”


Nemanja Vidic, Manchester United and Serbia:

“I trained against him every day, and he is the best player I have ever played with. He is the complete striker—and as a defender you are looking for a weakness that just isn't there. You would see players game after game kick him, pull him, trip him to try and get a reaction out of him—and sometimes, just sometimes, it would work.”

Sergio Busquets, Barcelona and Spain:

“The brilliance of players like Ronaldo and Messi is that opposition teams give them all their focus. You have two or three players concentrating on him—and it allows the other good players in the team to damage you. Players like Ronaldo know this—and he will try and pull players out so space opens up for his team. Give him respect—but also understand there are another 10 players you need to take care of.”


Carles Puyol, Barcelona and Spain:

“He has so much skill and technique that it is easy to forget he is a big guy and a powerful forward. You have to stand strong against him. You need to stand toe-to-toe against him and let him know you are tougher. It is important to have your biggest defender looking out for him—and to let him know you are there and mean business.”

Illustration by Graeme Bandeira