Cristiano Ronaldo wants to play to 40
Cristiano Ronaldo told AS' very own Manu Sainz that he wants to retire at the casa blanca when he's "40-something". At the top of his game, it's understood. He's 31 now and has finished yet another season scoring over 50 goals. There are a few signs that he's lost a little speed, but it's hard to tell if that's due to injuries he hasn't fully recovered from, or the beginning of the slow decline. Even if decline has set in, it is incipient. He just won the Silver Ball and no-one sees him off the podium this year, with Messi and one more, just like every year. Cristiano gives it all, not a minute's pardon, and looks after himself with an uncommon dedication.
Can he last until 40? When I started going to football, there were supporting cases. Di Stefano and Puskas, without looking any further. In those days football was much more physical and their technical superiority allowed the elongation of their careers. Of that era also was Stanley Matthews, who retired at 50, a prodigious talent. The only great dribbler who could turn on a sixpence that England had created until then (almost until now) and they treated him like a protected species. But football is played at a different rhythm now, those rarefied cases seem unrepeatable. If you are to make it to 40 now, aside from goalkeepers, it has to be in another way.
Advances in nutrition, sports and body science, and players under the watch of expert medics have seen the shelf-life of the professional footballer extend beyond the usual age range. Vierchwood the Italian defender was one advertisement for this new lease of longevity, and more recently Paolo Maldini. There are more cases. While the defender can get away with a little more, the striker needs velocity. Even so, we may see Ibrahimovic sign for Manchester United at 34 years of age, a leader. As time inexhorably passes on, football demands more, specifically it demands more time: in training, in care, in recovery. Sometimes you have to change your game, the way Messi is doing now. Perhaps Cristiano will do the same, not by stepping back, but by stepping forward.
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