Cristiano Ronaldo says playing without fans is 'like going to the CIRCUS and not seeing CLOWNS' as he hits 100 goals for Portugal
The irrepressible Portugal captain became the first European to reach 100 international goals with his first against Sweden in the Nations League, and he added another in the second half to edge closer to the all-time men's record before reflecting on life without fans as football continues during the pandemic.
Ronaldo would have played in front of a largely hostile crowd of more than 50,000 people had fans been allowed in to the home side's Friends Arena, where he scored two long-range efforts – including an eye-catching free-kick to register his century – in a performance that would have given his critics little to work with.
"I like being whistled," he admitted to RPT, adding that he found jeers motivating.
"But health comes first. If the WHO says that there are no [crowds], that's it.
57 & 10 - Cristiano Ronaldo's landmark goal for Portugal was scored via a direct-free kick; it was the 57th time in his career that he has scored in this manner, and the 10th for Portugal. Incredible. https://t.co/0ztGeknzNU— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 8, 2020
"Playing without fans is like going to the circus and not seeing clowns. It’s like going to the garden and not seeing flowers."
The evergreen 35-year-old held happy memories of the Stockholm stadium, where he scored a hat-trick on his previous visit in 2013, as he overturned two goals from fellow veteran Zlatan Ibrahimovic in a dramatic 3-2 World Cup qualifying win.
With the exception of Iran legend Ali Daei, the only player to come within 20 goals of Ronaldo's remarkable record, which he has achieved in 165 international appearances, is Hungary and Spain legend Ferenc Puskas, who retired in 1966.
His established rival for the Ballon d'Or, Lionel Messi, has 70 goals for Argentina, and Ibrahimovic scored 62 goals for Sweden – one more than Robert Lewandowski, the striker who might have won the honor had it been awarded this year, has for Poland.
"I managed to beat this milestone of 100 goals," said Ronaldo, eyeing Daei's total of 109.
"Now for the record. It's step by step. I am not obsessed because I believe the records come in a natural way."
Before his matchwinning performance, some sections of the Swedish press had fancifully suggested that Portugal would be a better team without their dependence on Ronaldo, having beaten World Cup finalists Croatia 4-1 in their previous game while he was kept out by a foot infection.
"I didn't follow the news," he claimed. "It's an opinion. I knew I left my mark last time I played at this stadium and it was the same now.
"I don't care about teasing – what I have done speaks for itself. I like to be here, with this group of players, coach and staff, and I knew that they would play well in the first game as our squad is too good and no-one is irreplaceable.
"Only God knows the future. I am happy to play with these young players and I am enjoying this moment a lot, both individually and collectively."
Ronaldo's partner, Georgina Rodriguez, was at the Venice Film Festival as he played for Portugal. Responding affectionately to his Instagram post showing a celebratory video of some of his goals, she wrote: "And many more."Also on rt.com Put your mask on! Cristiano Ronaldo REPRIMANDED for failing to wear face-covering as he watched Portugal game (VIDEO)