How Ronaldo has prepared himself

Cristiano Ronaldo is ready. The Portuguese forward is primed to shine for Real Madrid when it matters most and it is no coincidence. He has been preparing for this all along.

There was a time when Ronaldo wanted – and also demanded – to play every single minute. But at the age of 33, he understands that rest is one of the keys to prolonging his career – and also to producing his best at the business end of the season.

That has not always been the case. In his early years at Real, the Portuguese peaked early and often faded later on as the sheer amount of games took their toll. Back in those days, Ronaldo wanted it all: to play every week, in every competition, to break every record possible and to win the Ballon d’Or.

Often he would be chomping at the bit as the season started and regularly reached his apogee around the time the Ballon d’Or voting was taking place. That was deliberate; it was what he wanted more than anything else.

It is still high up in his list of priorities, but he is a more mature Cristiano now and the Portuguese is aware that he cannot do everything. He also understands that winning team trophies is the best way to retain the Ballon d’Or.

“I don’t know how many years in a row he has played 60 or 70 games, but he doesn’t stop,” Zidane said recently. “There comes a moment when it is necessary for him, for the team, for everything, for him to not play. He is better this way. Of course we talk about it, for the good of everyone.”

It is. Although Real Madrid won the Champions League in 2013-14, Ronaldo ended the season with physical problems and took time out before the final against Atletico, in which he was nowhere near his best despite scoring his side’s fourth goal from the penalty spot in extra time.

His problems continued at the World Cup with Portugal and again, he was below his usual level. Pictured in training with ice packs on his knee, his was a reduced role at Brazil 2014 and he could not prevent his nation from crashing out in the group stages.