Turin, Italy | AFP | Cristiano Ronaldo is in hot form and gunning for revenge going into Tuesday’s Champions League clash against Valencia after seeing red against the Spaniards in the away leg, with Juventus needing a draw in Turin to book their ticket to the knockout rounds of the European competition.
“Happy to have helped the team on another important win,” the 33-year-old wrote on social media after scoring his tenth goal this season for the Italian giants in Saturday’s 2-0 win over SPAL as Juventus opened up a record eight-point lead on the top of Serie A after 13 games.
Ronaldo was purchased by Juventus for 100 million euros ($113 million) from Real Madrid last summer to help their quest for the elusive Champions League title after finishing runners up twice in the past four seasons.
But the Portuguese superstar is also proving to be a key element in the team’s race towards an eighth straight Serie A title, with nine goals and five assists of their 28 goals this season.
No Italian team have ever achieved 37 points from the first 13 games, with Ronaldo becoming the fastest forward in the club’s history to score 10 goals in all competitions.
“I don’t not care about the numbers. I don’t count anything, the important thing is that we take it home in May,” said coach Massimiliano Allegri.
Next up is a Group H return leg clash against Valencia, who beat Rayo Vallecano 3-0 in La Liga at the weekend, but are midtable in Spain.
Juventus are top of the group with nine points after four games, with Manchester United two points behind and the Spaniards on five.
Ronaldo’s Champions League debut for Juventus in September was marred when he was controversially sent off in tears after half an hour for a small push on Valencia defender Jeison Murillo in Spain.
The red card was his first in 154 Champions League appearances, but Juventus still went on to beat the Spaniards 2-0.
Ronaldo scored his first Champions League goal for Juventus and the 121st of his career against Manchester United in Turin earlier this month before a stunning comeback gave his former club a 2-1 win to delay the Italians’ passage to the last 16.
– ‘Best player in the world’ –
Despite his success on the pitch — leading the way in Europe with 31 goals this calendar year for both Real Madrid and Juventus — Ronaldo missed out on the world player of the year award to Croatia’s Luca Modric.
There are also reports he has been snubbed for the final three in the Ballon d’Or for the first time since 2008, with the winner to be revealed in Paris on December 3.
Ronaldo — a five-time Ballon d’Or winner — spent much of last month vehemently denying allegations by former model Kathryn Mayorga that he raped her in Las Vegas in 2009.
He was dropped by Portugal for the Nations League internationals, with the European champions becoming the first team to book their passage to the semi-finals.
Leaving Ronaldo off the Ballon d’Or podium would be “madness,” says Juventus sporting director Fabio Paratici.
“Only a fool can doubt his qualities,” said Paratici.
“He is the best player in the world and the most important in the history of football.
“At this moment I see him very serene, as he has always been here at Juve. The fact that he cannot win the Ballon d’Or seems very strange, since he scored 15 goals in one Champions League campaign (last season),” he said.
Colombian teammate Juan Cuadrado warned that Ronaldo’s focus remains on the pitch, as he bids to add to his five Champions League titles between Manchester United and Real Madrid.
“Cristiano Ronaldo’s main quality is his professionalism,” said Cuadrado. “He’s hungry for victory and he’s come to the right place. We all think the same way he does.”
Juventus won the elite European title twice in 1985 and 1996, but have finished runners-up seven times.