As Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates his 39th birthday, we look at the superstar’s most clutch performances in his storied career.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s career has been marked by numerous significant goals that have defined his legacy as one of football’s greatest-ever players. Considering their impact on his career, and their context in crucial matches, here are what could be considered his five most important performances. 

From his early days as a speedy winger to his later years as a prolific forward, Ronaldo’s goals have been a constant source of inspiration for his teams and a highlight reel for football fans worldwide.

Cristiano Ronaldo: vs. Barcelona, Copa del Rey Final (2011) 

In his first season with Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo had to watch rivals Barcelona dominate LaLIga and the Champions as they marched towards their second treble in two years. 

However, Ronaldo came up clutch to the Barcelona train in a feisty Copa del Rey final, where he scored the only goal with a towering header in the first half of extra time. Scoring the only goal in the final, Ronaldo secured the Copa del Rey for Madrid, marking a significant victory over their fiercest rivals.

Portugal vs. Sweden, World Cup Qualifier (2013)

Cristiano Ronaldo

Facing a Sweden side led by the irrepressible Zlatan Ibrahimovic in a crucial World Cup Qualifier knockout game, Ronaldo rose to the occasion, scoring three times in an eventual 3-2 win for Portugal.

Ronaldo’s hat-trick in the second leg of this playoff was crucial for securing Portugal’s place in the 2014 World Cup, showcasing his ability to perform in high-pressure situations.

Cristiano Ronaldo: vs Wolfsburg, UEFA Champions League Quarter-final (2016)

After Real Madrid lost the first leg 2-0, Ronaldo took the second leg by the scruff of the neck, scoring a remarkable hat-trick to see Los Blancos through to the next round. 

His hat-trick was pivotal in turning around the tie and led the way for more incredible performances as Real Madrid went on to win the Champions League that season.

Real Madrid vs. Bayern Munich, UEFA Champions League Quarterfinal (2017)

In another game where Real Madrid were under pressure and in danger of being knocked out of the UEFA Champions League, Ronaldo stepped up to show why he is arguably the greatest player in the competition’s history. 

After Ronaldo scored the opening goal in the quarterfinal second leg against Bayern Munich, Real Madrid found themselves trailing 2-1 on the night and level 3-3 on aggregate going into extra-time. Ronaldo then scored two more goals to complete his hat-trick on the night and send Los Blancos into the semifinals. 

Portugal vs. Spain, FIFA World Cup (2018)

Spain and Portugal played out a classic in the group stage of the 2018 World Cup and Cristiano Ronaldo was the centre of the incredible match. 

Ronaldo twice gave Portugal the lead against Spain and even when La Roja took the lead to go 3-2 up, the former Real Madrid star broke Spanish hearts with a stunning freekick in the 88th minute to tie the game. Ronaldo’s hat-trick, especially the late free-kick goal to level the match at 3-3, was a standout performance in the group stage of the World Cup, underlining his ability to shine on the biggest stage.