Neil Humphreys: Why Ronaldo's goal was perfect
His greatness was defined by stunned reactions of audience
Cristiano Ronaldo was stunned by his own genius.
It didn't last long. Within seconds, the unexpected humility had given way to the usual finger-pointing hubris.
But just for a moment, he seemed in awe of his accomplishment.
Even legends must occasionally experience an out-of-body sensation, the feeling of looking in from the outside to get a glimpse of what it must be like for the rest of us - a mortal watching an immortal at work.
Ronaldo had witnessed the breathtaking alchemy of Ronaldo and it was enough to render him speechless.
He wasn't the only one.
The technical aspects of the overhead kick, the height, the connection, the occasion and the context will be dissected for years to come, but the immediate reaction said so much more.
Ronaldo's second goal in Real Madrid's 3-0 Champions League quarter-final, first-leg win against Juventus yesterday morning (Singapore time) was another "where were you" moment to be filed away with all the others in his scrapbook.
Everyone gets one or two "where were you" moments in their lives. In most instances, they are secondary experiences. They happen to other people. We are just fortunate enough to bear witness to such events.
But "where were you" moments are a way of life for Ronaldo.
When the magic becomes almost mundane, there's the risk of the magician becoming blase and Ronaldo certainly can be.
At 33, he knows every move after every trick. He knows where the cameras are, where to pose and pout, where to pull off the jersey and flex the pecs.
But not this time, not in Turin.
He was cowed by his own creativity. Watch the replays. Watch Ronaldo as he rolls over to see the ball fly into the net.
There's a brief pause as he realises his vision, a vision shared by every schoolkid kicking a scuffed ball from Madeira to Marine Parade.
He's realised perfection. He's reached a higher level of football purity.
Some overhead kicks are caught on the shin (Wayne Rooney). One or two have the air of a lucky punter who has bet the mortgage on the roulette wheel a thousand times only for the gamble to pay off once (Peter Crouch).
But luck had nothing to do with Ronaldo's exhibition. There was no flukey contact with flying body parts.
Every aspect of the goal was precise and flawless. He started and finished the move. He anticipated and executed.
And even the Italian fans appreciated it. They applauded.
They recognised their part in another Ronaldo "where were you" moment.
Director Quentin Tarantino has often said that he sneaks into cinemas to study the audience's reactions, the only immediate, visceral and effective way to gauge the impact of his artistry.
Turin was no different.
Watch again Gianluigi Buffon. Without falling to the floor, he appeared to crumble. Age was supposed to retire him, not a strike for the ages.
He's 40. He wouldn't have saved Ronaldo's strike at 20. A soccer shaman had left him rooted to the spot, hypnotised.
On the six-yard line, Andrea Barzagli had the best view, but he failed to make sense of the surreal imagery. He threw his hands in the air, unable to process what had just happened in front of him.
On the touchline, Zinedine Zidane created an eternal meme with one frenzied rub of his bald head.
The Granddaddy of great Champions League goals couldn't comprehend Ronaldo's sorcery, looking like Obi-Wan Kenobi marvelling at Luke Skywalker's Jedi tricks.
It wasn't a new hope, but the only hope for Real Madrid. It was Ronaldo, the age-defying, gravity-defying, logic-defying bronzed god of brilliance, back on his feet and heading for the touchline.
He exhaled. He pouted. There were still no words, no gleaming teeth, just those wide eyes, frantically darting from side to side, as if searching for something, an explanation perhaps for what he'd just done.
But there isn't one. There's just Ronaldo, the greatest when it comes to taking prodigious raw talent and pushing it to the limits of human endurance.
By the time he reached the touchline, the wide-eyed innocence had gone. The cocky colossus was back, hands on hips, basking in the adulation.
Ronaldo had finally processed the goal. And at long last, he smiled.
It was the only time he looked a bit slow and off the pace.
The rest of the world was already smiling.