The field is called Eden.
But as he walked through it bloodied and dazed, at 37 years old Cristiano Ronaldo must have felt that he had crossed the threshold that leads to the valley of shadows.
The most prolific European goalscorer in history always lived up to date.
As if the past and the future did not exist, he did not stop to contemplate the consequences of his actions and concentrated on the goal with desperation.
When he recently declared that he wanted to play in the 2024 European Championship, some of his younger teammates, those who are still not bothered by his overweening ambition, approached him for a laugh at the expense of the game. birth of him.
“Diogo Dalot”, Cristiano recalled;
"He tells me: 'you have played with all the historical footballers of Portugal', you are an old man!".
Cristiano laughs at the passage of time but, just in case, he does not stop fighting it.
Nor in this season start, the blackest of the more than two decades of him as a professional.
When the Portuguese coach, Fernando Santos, called him up two weeks ago to play the last two games of the Nations League before the World Cup in Qatar, he made him aware that he had to recover him physically and mentally.
The United striker had just started three games out of the eight he had played and only one goal appeared in his locker: against Sheriff in the Europa League, and from a penalty.
The day before facing the Czech Republic, on Saturday in Prague, the coach announced that he would start at Eden: "Cristiano is fit."
There is a fateful point in the life of the scorers.
It is the moment in which they discover that their muscles begin to shorten and they lose the elasticity and reaction speed essential to function in the territory most populated by the rival defenses.
The rough and vertiginous environment in which, as Luis Aragonés said, "the crocodiles are".
Some, like Butragueño, experience decline before the age of 30. Others, the more athletic, can prolong their maximum productivity for years based on adaptations.
Until 2016, Cristiano was a landowner.
He moved up and down the pitch, from the center circle to the wingers, and from the wingers to the penalty spot in a relentless frenzy.
In the last five years he has secluded himself in a garden: he narrowed his field of action to the immediate vicinity of the area and his goalscoring performance multiplied.
But time did not pass in vain.
Prague was a bad revelation.
Two passes by Bruno Fernandes, from left to right along the penalty area, one ten minutes into the game and another after half an hour, left Cristiano Ronaldo alone against goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik.
In other times the man would have been quick and precise to gain position and shoot wildly.
This time two mishaps occurred.
In the first action he tried so hard to shoot the uncheck that he came to contact numb and was uncoordinated when hitting.
On the second play he gave up speed to refine the shot and the center-back was ahead of him.
Desolate at the two resounding chances wasted, he stomped to the ground as if he were pointing out that the irregularity that had caused him to miss was the lawnmower's fault.
In his effort to score, he disputed a ball that he could not reach and suffered a tremendous blow from Vaclik that made his nose bleed.
He shot four times in the entire game.
He never between the three sticks.
To avoid the rigors of the area, he spent his life denying the condition of tip or
But nobody considers him anything else.
Asked about the future of the Portuguese team in the upcoming World Cup, André Villas-Boas had no doubts: “The last six years have been the best ever for the national team, we won the Euro in 2016 and the Nations League.
We have a lot of creativity on the wings, very technical midfielders, and at the top, where historically we have lacked a scorer, there is Cristiano.
I think it will be Cristiano's last World Cup.
And I think he's going to be up to the task."
Bruno Fernandes: "He generates an overload in his area"
Portugal thrashed the Czech Republic 0-4 without Cristiano shining, but even Bruno Fernandes, the new leader of the attack, defended his validity.
“As a midfielder”, he warned, “playing with Cristiano is very good because the defenders are so afraid that he will receive the ball and turn around that they all turn towards him and that generates an overload in his area.
I've scored goals by attacking the space that Cristiano leaves behind him when he moves towards the goalposts”.
"Ronaldo is an example for all of us, those of us who don't have that much quality, because he shows that with hard work we can compete against the best," said Dani Alves, who vindicated him.
“Neither he nor I are players of pure talent: we got where we got thanks to hard work.
Thanks to his work, he was able to compete with Messi.
How can you not respect that?
Alves, like Villas-Boas, Fernando Santos and Bruno Fernandes speak under the influence produced by historical statistics.
Cristiano's 117 goals in 190 caps since 2004 surpass all known European and American records.
The myth induces us to think of its perpetuity.
This Tuesday in Braga (8:45pm CET) Spain's trembling central defenders face much more than a decadent scorer.
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