Ronaldo sheds tears of joy, finally
From weepy kid to crying icon, Cristiano does it his own way
- After extra-time
At the final whistle, he cried.
A host nation expected and the wonder kid couldn't deliver.
Cristiano Ronaldo was only 19 and his raw youth consumed him.
In 2004, the boy could not believe the men around him failed in the Euro final at home, real players like Luis Figo and Rui Costa.
They deflated a host nation. They failed.
FROM TEARS TO CHEERS: Ronaldo in tears after being forced to come off with a knee injury early in the final against France yesterday morning. PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES
Ronaldo doesn't do failure.
So he builds an immune system the likes of which modern football has never seen.
At Manchester United, they mocked the skinny kid doing extra push-ups and sit-ups.
Rio Ferdinand felt that the Portuguese pretender tried too many stepovers and was too scrawny for the English Premier League's bruisers.
But Ronaldo wasn't perturbed. He trained harder, ran further and leapt higher, knowing that he may be one day be called to out-jump an entire defence and steer his countrymen towards the final of a major tournament.
And he wins just about everything.
Titles, cups and Champions League trophies have been swept up, but his three Ballon d'Or prizes are more representative of his stellar career.
Those three gongs along with his disturbing obsession with Lionel Messi, which is revealed in a sycophantic documentary, suggests Ronaldo doesn't adhere to cliches about there being no "I" in team.
If I am Ronaldo, then I am all that matters.
The sulking, the turf-beating and the torso-exposing, vein-popping goal celebrations hint at a ruthlessly determined soul who will not stop.
He answers to the most demanding voice of them all. His own.
And the voice nags away at him every two years, the tournament cycle throwing him on the merry-go-round of mediocrity once more.
His countrymen are not good enough to win anything. Sometimes, he isn't good enough.
Through the initial stages of Euro 2016, he certainly isn't.
A lack of quality gives way to crass, nasty statements. Ronaldo is undignified in his disappointment.
His comments about Iceland are cruel and unfair, but indicative of a man consumed by his own ambition, unwilling to compromise words or actions if he knows he's been second best.
When the Euro 2016 final line-ups are announced inside the Stade de France, he is booed. When he limbers up and the camera catches that flawless, tanned face, he is booed. When the game begins and he receives possession for the first time, he is booed.
Every Ronaldo touch is booed, relentlessly, mercilessly. The same crowd that generously applauded both of Iceland's goals against the host nation are screaming at the tournament's greatest player, willing him to fail.
But the French don't really hate Ronaldo. They fear him.
Renato Sanches, William Carvalho and Joan Mario can hurt the host nation. But Ronaldo can kill them. One dash, one jump or one drag back from his dancing feet and the dream is over.
A fragile country dares to dream, but not when Ronaldo is on the ball.
So they boo, instead.
And then they laugh.
A shuddering collision with Dimitri Payet, two artists temporarily swapping paintbrushes for sledgehammers, leaves Ronaldo a crumpled mess.
The French giggle and cheer as he endures painful treatment. And then they boo. Of course they boo.
It's Ronaldo, the most polarising figure in the modern game, the man who encapsulates both its athletic drive and its narcissistic greed like no other.
Sometimes, he's poetry in motion. Sometimes, he's insufferable.
But now he's suffering.
Ronaldo tries to run off the eighth-minute injury.
As the clock ticks past 20 minutes, the pain reminds him of both his age and his fragility. He can't do this anymore, not like he used to.
On 22 minutes, a desperate sprint through central midfield swiftly turns into the collapse of a colossus. Ronaldo's tournament is over.
Laughter echoes around the cavernous Stade de France, but stops almost as quickly as it begins. The giant screens silence the giggling hosts.
The tears steal their voices.
On the stretcher, Ronaldo cries.
But this isn't the boy from 2004 with the glittering career ahead of him. This is a broken 31-year-old leaving the best of his career behind him on the pitch.
Ronaldo is carried away from his last chance to occupy that space in the trophy cabinet, to fill the void that eats away at a perfectionist's conscience.
In the end, the French applaud. He wasn't acting, after all. He was in agony.
And he disappears, the anguish too much to bear before a global audience. Like much of his career, Ronaldo wants to share his despair with the person he usually shares his success. Himself.
But as the skies darken, Paris witnesses a miracle. A journeyman called Eder buys a lottery ticket in the 109th minute and swings a boot. The net bulges and suddenly, inexplicably, the dream is on. Ronaldo's lifelong dream is on.
So he reappears. Suddenly, he's a limping mirage near the dugout, a living legend turned last-minute leader, screaming at every team-mate to hold their advantage.
And they do. Portugal hang on to a dream.
For the briefest of moments and the longest of lifetimes, Ronaldo puts his head in his hands.
And he cries.
The best player of the tournament wins the tournament.
And he really sobs, the boy inside the man crying for each other. A career spent searching for the unattainable goal of perfection briefly finds it.
Every one of Ronaldo's tears has been earned, along with his place among the best of all time.
Ronaldo joins club of footballing greats
Cristiano Ronaldo became the latest footballing great to win a major international trophy following Portugal's Euro 2016 victory.
Here, Press Association Sport looks at some of the stars of the game who achieved success with their countries, as well as those who failed to.
The Santos striker won three of the four World Cups he played in, beginning with the 1958 tournament in Sweden where, at 17 years and 249 days, he became the youngest player to appear in a final. He also scored two goals in that game and 12 in total across the four tournaments.
Alfredo Di Stefano (Argentina/Spain)
Di Stefano, who enjoyed huge success domestically and in the European Cup with Real Madrid, helped his native Argentina to win the South American Championship in 1947.
He was, however, denied the opportunity to play at a World Cup.
After Argentina did not enter the competition in 1950 and 1954, he briefly represented Colombia before acquiring Spanish citizenship.
At the age of 35, he went to the 1962 World Cup with his adopted country but failed to make an appearance.
Bobby Moore (England)
Perhaps the most memorable photograph in English football is Moore clutching the Jules Rimet Trophy while being held aloft by his World Cup-winning teammates after beating West Germany in 1966.
Franz Beckenbauer (West Germany)
Following the disappointment of the 1966 final defeat in Beckenbauer's first World Cup, he took over as captain of the side in 1971 and promptly led the Germans to back-to-back tournament wins.
He lifted the 1972 European Championship in Belgium before clinching the World Cup on home soil a couple of years later.
Diego Maradona (Argentina)
He will forever be remembered for his "Hand of God" goal against England, but Napoli's Maradona produced some fantastic displays at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico to inspire his country to glory.
Zinedine Zidane (France)
His two headed goals in the 1998 final secured France's first World Cup and he was also an integral part of the successful Euro 2000 squad.
Zizou blotted his copybook slightly with his 2006 World Cup final headbutt on Marco Materazzi as France finished runners-up.
Ferenc Puskas (Hungary)
The star of Hungary's golden generation, Puskas won Olympic gold with his country in 1952 before guiding them to the World Cup final against West Germany two years later.
He scored in that game but, despite the Hungarians beating the Germans 8-3 in the group stage, they lost 3-2.
Like Real Madrid teammate Di Stefano, Puskas later represented Spain and was part of their 1962 World Cup squad, playing three times in that competition.
The Benfica striker was top-scorer at the 1966 World Cup in England, but his nine goals were not enough to fire the Portuguese to glory.
A semi-final defeat by the hosts eliminated them but they recovered to take third place with victory over the Soviet Union.
Johan Cruyff (Holland)
Cruyff was another great to have come within a whisker of glory.
He was captain of his country when they lost 2-1 to West Germany in the final of the 1974 World Cup and again two years later when the Dutch finished third at Euro 1976.
He retired from international football ahead of Holland's appearance at the 1978 World Cup Finals, where they also finished as runners-up.
George Best (Northern Ireland)
The Manchester United star never got a sniff of representing his country on the highest stage.
Northern Ireland qualified for just one major tournament during his playing days and, by the time of the 1982 World Cup, Best was 36, past his prime and had not won a cap for five years.
Roberto Baggio (Italy)
"The Divine Ponytail" is best remembered for missing the penalty which handed Brazil the 1994 World Cup at Italy's expense. He was also part of the squad which finished third on home soil four years earlier.
Lionel Messi (Argentina)
Messi's failure to win a trophy with Argentina has been well publicised. He was agonisingly close on numerous occasions, finishing runner-up at the Copa America in 2007, 2015 and 2016, as well as at the 2014 World Cup, before announcing his international retirement last month.
- PA Sport.