One man just couldn’t do it on his own …

The Portuguese national team suffered a somewhat surprising first round exit in the knockout stage of the World Cup on Saturday in a 2-1 defeat against Uruguay. After a hard fought group stage, one that featured the heroics of superstar Cristiano Ronaldo putting the team on his back, the squad seemed destined to make a run in what many were speculating as the captain’s last World Cup.

That, however, appeared to be closer to a script from a Hollywood movie than reality. As someone who is portuguese myself, expectations were and are always sky high. After all, we have the greatest player in the world on our side, the LeBron James of soccer, the thought is that we will forever be in contention for the cup as long as number 7 is on the pitch.

Unfortunately, as LeBron found out as well, one player cannot do it all. Sure, Ronaldo was helped out some by midfielder William Carvalho, who played outstanding as someone who could step back and go toe-to-toe with anyone on the attack, feisty defender Pepe who finally used his head for good this weekend, and winger Ricardo Quaresma. Other than that trio, his fellow countrymen seemed more interested in watching the Ronaldo show with the rest of us rather than actually helping him out. And people will say that three people should be enough, but no one would consider any on his supporting cast a superstar or even close to that label.

Take William Carvalho for example.

Most will look at him and say, “Woah, this dude is big, physical, and makes plays.”

Absolutely Carvalho is a playmaker when he wants to be, but don’t take his size on your television screen to mean anything. Let’s remember, us Portuguese aren’t very tall, Carvalho stands at only 6’3″, he’s no 6’6″ German machine. In comparison to the rest of his teammates, sure he is big and physical, but still only plays for Sporting CP in his homeland without offers from any notable powerhouses outside the country.

It’s not like Lionel Messi, where he can lean on the likes of Angel Di Maria, Sergio Aguero, Marcos Rojo, and Gonzalo Higuain (all bonafide stars) to carry the load when he is not at his best. The same could be said for Neymar with his Brazilian team packed with fellow superstars up and down the roster. For Portugal, it’s Ronaldo and that’s it. A formula that sometimes works and often times is not enough. On days where a Bernardo Silva or Joao Mario wish to step up, the team looks unbeatable. When Ronaldo is locked in and firing on all cylinders, the team looks unbeatable. But when he’s just a little off, and everyone else is expecting him to bring the team to the promised land while they do the bare minimum, the most recent European champions look closer to European chumps.

Now we circle back to LeBron James. Possibly on the worst team he’s ever had, LeBron somehow found a way to bring a team with J.R. Smith, Rodney Hood, and Larry Nance Jr. to the Finals. And while they were swept, it is impressive enough that one man could carry a team, which will surely be one of the worst in the league next year now that he is playing for the Lakers, that far.

A superstar like Ronaldo should be treated no different. The debate on who is the greatest of all-time has already been settled in the eyes of many (and you don’t have to guess who I think it is). No one has won and accomplished more in a career than Cristiano Ronaldo. While Messi has won one more Ballon díOrís, Ronaldo has more hardware to show for it. Any sports fan will tell you, give me the guy who’ll win me a championship rather than the one who is consistently holding the MVP trophy without a ring attached to it. Itís the classic debate we have about Russell Westbrook and his worth today. The guy who puts up insane numbers, or the guy who does close to the same and wins? Give me the dude who puts up a banner and knows how to lead a team.

So when we look back at the international career of Ronaldo, we will see a European championship and many failed attempts in between at trying to hoist the World Cup trophy. Everyone will remember that he was fifth in the lineup to shoot penalties in the 2012 Euro semi-final against Spain and never gave his team a chance to win as Bruno Alves missed the frame completely and sent Portugal home. People will remember him not making it out of the group stage in 2014 as the United States and Germany advanced.

No one will recognize or remember his unbelievable three goal performance to keep Portugal alive against Spain this year. No one will remember him single-handedly carrying his squad to a European championship after finishing third in a weak group with Iceland, Hungary, and Austria and shedding tears on the field after a brutal injury suffered in the final against France. No will remember the 19 year-old kid from the small island of Madeira help his country reach the Euro final in 2004.

A legacy that should be showered with love and recognition of greatness will only ever be remembered for the missed opportunities on the international stage. But that’s what happens when you’re the best, people always look for ways to tell you otherwise.

A career that has accomplished everything, is missing just a World Cup victory. A feat that the 33 year-old may never accomplish due to inadequate support. A novel without a final chapter…for now.

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