“To fully appreciate his longevity, consider that his last hat trick in a United Jersey was against Newcastle United in 2008. None of Cristiano Ronaldo’s former teammates in the starting line-up on that day are still playing”.
Given its obvious correlation with superior fitness, the world of sports has traditionally been associated with youth. However, the last week has seen some spellbinding performances from the older legs. The Champions League featured the first two: Robert Lewandowski, Bayern Munich’s prolific striker, scored the fastest hat-trick from the start of a match in Champions League history, achieving this in 23 minutes against RB Salzberg. Bayern ultimately won the match 7-1. He now has 5 Champions League hat tricks, surpassed only by Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi with 8 apiece. He is currently the top scorer in the Bundesliga with 29 goals. Robert Lewandowski is 33 years young.
Staying on the Champions League stage, Kylian Mbappé, Neymar and Leo Messi led Paris Saint-Germain’s star line-up against 13-time champions Real Madrid in the last 16. PSG had won the first leg in Paris with a lone goal. Mbappé was running riot in the first half, netting a goal, and having another disallowed after a VAR check. The writing looked to be on the wall for Madrid. But the veterans thought otherwise. With a supporting cast including 35-year-old Luka Modrić, Benzema dazzled with an 18-minute hat-trick to complete Madrid’s turnaround and a record 37th qualification for the quarter-finals of the Champions League. Benzema became the first player to score in 18 successive calendar years in the UEFA Champions League and the oldest player to score a Champions League hat-trick. The PS5 player of the week, Karim Benzema is 34 years young.
When football records tumble, Cristiano Ronaldo is never far away. The whispers were getting louder as to the wisdom of having him back at Manchester United. Would it all go pear-shaped with the struggling giants of English football? Across all media, his goal drought was being computed. He was being criticised for his lack of pressing. But you write off Ronaldo at your peril. The more the criticism, the more certain it is that he will come good. And in great style.
In the Premier League, against Spurs in a game with big consequences for a top-four finish, the Cristiano masterclass was on full display. On the twelfth minute, his thunderbolt from twenty-five yards defeated Spurs’ goalkeeper Hugo Lloris to equal football’s top scorer record. But he wasn’t finished. Watched by another sporting superstar, Tom Brady, winner of a seventh Super Bowl at over 40 years old, two more goals followed to give him the 59th hat-trick of his career, and his 806th and 807th goals.
United had ten shots on goal, Ronaldo with eight of them and six on target, Ronaldo with five of them. Everyone has run out of superlatives to describe his phenomenal career. To fully appreciate his longevity, consider that his last hat trick in a United Jersey was against Newcastle United in 2008. None of his former teammates in the starting line-up on that day are still playing. Ronaldo’s third goal, a header, sealed his name in the history books as the only player to score that many goals in the history of football. Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro is 37 years young.
And so, to the world of tennis. Ongoing at Indian Wells is the ATP 1000 event featuring many of the usual suspects of tennis, Rafael Nadal among them. Against Sebastian Korda, Nadal was 2-5 down in the deciding set. Most sports journalists would have sent in their copy with headlines of his first loss of the season. Never underestimate Rafa’s fighting spirit. He summoned up the will to come back from two breaks down and to win the third set 7-6. Nadal is having the best start to his season. A record-breaking 21st Grand Slam at the Australian Open in January, with 16 wins and no losses this year, he continues to show a hunger to compete at the highest levels of the game. Rafael Nadal Parera is 35 years young.
What continues to fascinate is the common theme of determination, fighting spirit, never-say-die attitude, endless self-belief, and sheer mental strength that elite athletes exhibit -the characteristics that keep them at the top and give us entertainment week after week. It is a true privilege to watch these sporting accomplishments.
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