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Ronaldo holds back father time

Portuguese's self-belief goes on at 35

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Cristiano Ronaldo is still delivering at the highest level of football

Cristiano Ronaldo is still delivering at the highest level of football

REUTERS

Cristiano Ronaldo is still delivering at the highest level of football

The clock of Cristiano Ronaldo's existence ticks into its 36th year today accompanied by a life-affirming truth.

For all his other preternatural gifts, Cristiano Ronaldo does not strike you as a student of Shakespeare.

Yet the Bard, who, in his sonnets, obsessively fretted about humanity's inability to slow time's charging current, would have admired CR7's conviction that he can stare down mortality, remain an eternally blinding sun king.

Lost in powerful melancholy, Shakespeare lamented: "And nothing 'gainst Time's scythe can make defence."

Laughing

Yet, here is Ronaldo laughing at the very notion of decline, decommissioning that same scythe.

On Sunday, he became the first player in 15 years to score in nine successive Serie A contests. He swaggers, he pouts, he thrills, certain that his trees will never shed their leaves.

Since December 1, he has scored 16 times in 12 games to help Juventus keep Antonio Conte's resurgent Internazionale at arm's length. The Portuguese is a brilliant freak of nature; a banquet without a best-before date.

He presents a powerful argument that Tír na nÓg might truly exist.

In his younger days, it was fashionable to lampoon Ronaldo, to mock his narcissism, the adolescent self-absorption.

But, long before tomorrow's 35th birthday, the put-downs had given way to a crowning admiration at his capacity to keep pushing out the boundaries and to remain relevant.

To feast on his own glories yet remain somehow ravenous.

His duel with Lionel Messi - the prince of the Pampas turns 33 in July - has carried both toward sporting old age with the narrative of an epic novel, a story that has altered and elevated their chosen code.

Here he is now, Ronaldo, a grandfather of world football, his egotistical kinks forgiven. Universally respected, perhaps, even beloved.

Still in a rush to bury history under a landslide of statistical brilliance. Sunday's two goals brought his career total for club and country to a simply absurd 722.

At 35, he remains insatiable, the enduring belief in his own powers to continue as a difference-making alpha male a firewall against doubt, insecurity.

And, for who knows how much longer, time itself.

What would Manchester United, a hollowed-out husk, give for the vitality their former galactico - even now, a decade older than the stumbling, indifferent Anthony Martial - brings to every contest?

Mirror

If Ronaldo looks in the mirror - and everything we know about the man suggests he just might - as reaches the halfway point of his journey between 30 and 40, what will the reflection staring back at him announce?

Might it submit that the reel of this movie is not yet nearly run, that time is just one more opponent to be nutmegged and made look silly.

And that he remains king of the world.