Real Madrid star became first player to score 100 Champions League goals last night with hat-trick against Bayern and has years to go
GARY NEVILLE has backed Cristiano Ronaldo to play into his 40s and excel in a new centre-forward role.
The Real Madrid superstar became first player to score 100 Champions League goals last night with his crucial hat-trick against Bayern Munich.
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Now 32 years old, the Portuguese has traditionally played out wide where he has scored over 50 goals in all competitions each season since 2009/10.
This term however, while an overall tally of 31 Real goals in 38 games has not quite eclipsed previous years, he is still a potent threat as he changes his game to become a more central striker.
And Ronaldo’s former Manchester United team-mate Neville, now turned pundit, believes once he adapts, his fitness and motivation could see him play for at least another decade.
He told Sky Sports: “I was thinking the other day, what’s the long game for him? And I wonder if he’s going to go on and play into his 40s.
“I wonder if he’s building up for a long career as a centre forward, where his running doesn’t have to be 11km, 12km per match, it can be 7km, 8km, 9km, where he can still score two goals and live off moments.
“He’s living off moments more than his all-round performance now.
“When he was at United, between 2006 and 2008, I still maintain that’s his best two football years as a football player, in terms of his contribution through the whole game.
“Since he’s gone to Real Madrid he’s contributed enormously to everything they’ve done but he’s living more off moments rather than a contribution through a whole 90 minutes.”
Neville, who managed Valencia in La Liga at Valencia last season against Ronaldo’s Real, also says he could become the greatest goal scorer ever, up there with the legends of the game.
He added: “He’ll be thinking Pele. Those numbers. Those scandalous numbers you think you can never achieve, the appearances, the goals, and that to me is where it’s going.
“I think he’ll play for longer than Lionel Messi, I think he’ll score more goals in the end and will go on to do incredible things.
“I think he’ll go on for a long, long time. And in this game, he’s becoming a goal-scorer, he’s getting in the box more, he’s coming across the near post, his heading is incredible anyway.
“I think we’ve seen the transformation of a player. We’ve seen Ryan Giggs go from a flying winger to someone who played more centrally as a midfielder. We’re seeing Cristiano now as a centre-forward.
“He knows he can’t go up and down all the time now. He knows he can’t go past players all the time. He’ll become a goalscorer, a poacher and a good one.”