Leadership Lessons from Cristiano Ronaldo’s 4-Goal Performance in Euro 2020 Qualifiers

Earlier this week, in Lithuania, 4 shots were taken that will impact a nation for at least 2 decades.  Cristiano Ronaldo scored 4 goals in Portugal’s Euro Qualifying match against Lithuania, which saw the nation move up in their group standing to 2nd place for the time being.  While the result in the present is very exciting, something else happened during that same game that will impact the team for years to come.

Cristiano Ronaldo is 34 years old and this coming February will be turning 35.  He is beginning his second season at one of Italy’s top clubs, Juventus, after leaving Spain’s La Liga back in the summer of 2018 in order to test himself yet again, looking to prove that his success and skill transcends teams and leagues.

So, on this night where Portugal faced Lithuania, at 34 years old, Cristiano delivered one of the best performances of his national team career.

Most of you might be thinking, “well, isn’t this just another day at the office for one of the greatest football players the world has ever seen?”  Not quite, 4 goals is more than just another day in the office, but what makes these 4 goals special is the impact they will have for decades to come.

Starting and playing alongside Ronaldo was 19 year old Joao Felix, who some consider the potential future of Portuguese football.   Joao Felix was born in 1999, just a 3 years before Ronaldo made his professional senior club team debut.  In his barely 20 years of existence, he has managed to score 15 goals in 26 games for Portuguese club Benfica, represent Portugal at the senior national team level, and secure a contract with Atletico Madrid at a club-record $137 million transfer fee.

On this night in Lithuania, Joao Felix experienced first-hand, within the closest proximity possible, some of the greatest examples and lessons any 19 year old could ever learn.  The following are the biggest lessons in leadership, determination, discipline, and pure will that I believe Joao Felix and countless other young Portuguese players will carry with them for decades to come.

Play as if You are Losing

With Portugal needing a win to keep their Euro qualifying hopes alive, they get a penalty in the 7th minute that puts them up 1-0.  At this point, Ronaldo and gang could consider this a done deal but he and the rest of the senior members of the team continue to take shots on goal and push for a second goal.  Leadership Lesson – don’t get comfortable, continue working hard, as if you are still behind, because if you close your eyes for too long, you might find yourself behind again.

Never Give Up, Continue Pushing

Approaching halftime, Ronaldo, who is firing shots like a machine gun, can’t get one passed the goalkeeper, but that doesn’t deter him as he continues his attack which includes looking for open teammates to set them up for goals.  At this point, Lithuania has already tied the match at 1-1.  Leadership Lesson – you never give up, whether you are winning, losing, or tied, you give your absolute best and never ever lose hope.  Ronaldo physically demonstrates this best by physically keeping his head and shoulders up and encouraging his teammates to keep fighting.  He can often be seen putting his two index fingers to his left and right temples, signaling “it’s all in our mind, we can overcome this!”

If You Keep Pushing, The Results Will Come

In 61st minute, Ronaldo takes a shot that doesn’t look like his best, but a fumble of the ball by the goalkeeper has the ball go into the net.  A goal is a goal, it doesn’t have to be pretty.  Portugal will take it.  Leadership Lesson – if you keep trying, keep pushing, and get up after each knock down, you will have the best chance of success, the results will come.  Don’t give up!  Now, let’s get back to work, this game isn’t over.

The Fundamentals are Fundamental to Success

In the 65th minute, Ronaldo converts a pass from the flank and the score is 3-1, things are looking up, momentum is building, the effort is paying off.  Ronaldo made sure to be in the right place at the right time and kept his touch of the ball basic and simple.  Nothing flashy here.  Leadership Lesson – If you focus on the basics, the fundamentals, and keep doing them, the dividends and rewards will come.  Keep pushing, keep persisting with the fundamentals that are known to deliver results.  Do not make things more complicated than they need to be.

Don’t Take Success for Granted

In the 76th minute, Ronaldo with a one-touch effort off a great pass, bends the ball around the Lithuanian goalkeeper to score his 4th goal in the game.  Leadership Lesson – don’t take your foot off the gas pedal.  Keep pushing, do not take the success or momentum for granted.  Bonus Lesson for Joao Felix, this particular goal was also an example of an incredibly difficult shot.  This shot also happens to be exactly like a shot Joao Felix attempted earlier in the game and missed by inches.  His mentor and leader showed him how it’s done.  Watch and learn.

Proximity is Power

For Joao Felix, this was also an opportunity to witness what is possible.  Joao Felix, at 19, has a unique opportunity to not only be inspired by this, but more importantly to learn directly from Ronaldo how one becomes great.  Leadership Lesson – Joao Felix, on this night, witnessed what is possible – to be approaching 35 and continue to dominate thanks to determination, leadership, discipline, and pure will.

Those 4 goals will forever be etched into the mind and experience of Joao Felix and if he uses it wisely, those 4 goals will deliver an incredible return in the form of what I am sure Cristiano Ronaldo hopes will be an even better career for the young player and his future Portuguese teammates.

Questions For You

  • Who is close enough to you that you can inspire, teach, and empower to become great in the years to come?
  • What are you doing to inspire and teach them?
  • How can you be more intentional about turning your victories and failures into lessons for the next generation?
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