Cristiano Ronaldo stands with his feet pressed together in a goal-scoring position. Those legs are customarily apart when it’s his turn to take a free-kick or a penalty. But when awaiting a corner-kick in the box, it’s his eyes that spread wide across. His dilated pupils scan not just the kick-taker, but his every body posture and surrounding environs.
The corner is thumped in and swerves a fair distance away from Ronaldo, who jogs left, only to readjust his run more centrally in the final second while simultaneously lowering his spine. Then, with one swift motion, a bent Ronaldo catches the ball on his sagging left shoulder and swishes the back of the net with a twisting chest.
Right there, a most historic goal has been accomplished.
Why, you ask. Perhaps it may have skipped a mention earlier, but the Portuguese star’s eyes could well have been blindfolded. For Ronaldo managed every twitch of that goal-scoring maneuvre in absolute darkness. Dark as the depths of Mordor.
In 2013, a bunch of scientists from England wanted to know just how good Ronaldo’s art really was. So they created a specialised lab in Madrid, the city of his club life, and forensically investigated his every fibre for research purposes. First they switched off the lab lights a second after the kick was taken. Ronaldo headed the first one in and hoofed in the other. Then, the lights went off a second before the kick, during the kicker’s run-up.
You now already know what the result of that test was. “I mean his awareness is phenomenal,” said one scientist, gasping. “He doesn’t just watch the ball as the coaching manual asks you to. But his mind is calculating everything around it. Body position, distance, motion, swing, sound, touch, feel, everything. All while being blind as a bat.”
The results of ‘Tested to the Limit’ (the label with which these sessions are now marketed) pretty much proves that the 29-year old is not just more aware than your average professional footballer (a Bradmanesque percentile was achieved in the late 99s), but more spatially inclined to a stimuli than almost every member of his species on planet earth.
Aerially reactive too. With his rarest of gifts, Ronaldo — a man who can activate every other sense to score without sight just as well as Beethoven could compose music without the help of sound — is perhaps just short on the evolutionary scale of fluttering his arms and learning to fly. Yet, that may be more feasible for the Portugal captain than, say, winning a World Cup with his feet grounded to earth.
For, lest we forget, football is a team sport. And getting the rest of his continued…