Cristiano Ronaldo is “not in this world” according to Switzerland midfielder Granit Xhaka, who feels clear daylight remains between the Portugal and Juventus star, Lionel Messi and the rest of football’s prime talents.
Ronaldo scored the 53rd hat-trick of his professional career in stunning style to fire Portugal past Switzerland 3-1 in Porto on Wednesday and into the final of the inaugural Nations League Finals.
Switzerland levelled through a controversial VAR-awarded Ricardo Rodriguez penalty, which cancelled out Ronaldo’s blistering 25th-minute free-kick, only for the 34-year-old to leave Estadio do Dragao in raptures with a pair of late strikes – Xhaka coughing up possession for the break that saw him claim the matchball.
“I think we had a very good game. In my opinion we were the better team but the difference is they have Ronaldo,” said the Arsenal midfielder, who will now prepare for a third-place match in Guimaraes against England after Netherlands triumphed 3-1 during extra time in Thursday’s semi-final.
“It’s unbelievable what a player he is. It’s not for nothing that he’s one of the best players in the world.
“He’s special because he knows always where you have to go and to be.
“I think we had him in our hands but, in the end, he scored three times and we lost the game.
“I think we can be proud how we play, against a very good team.”
Before the match, Xhaka suggested the challenge facing Ronaldo was perhaps comparable to taking on Real Madrid-bound Eden Hazard, who dazzled as Chelsea ran out 4-1 winners over Arsenal in the Europa League final last week.
But afterwards the 26-year-old conceded his most recent tormentor and Messi reside on a different plane.
Asked whether Ronaldo was the best player in the world, he replied: “One of them. In my opinion you have two of them. They are not in this world.
“Those two are clear of the rest. If you play at 34 on this level you deserve a lot of respect.
“He shows in all the games – international and with Juventus – that he has unbelievable quality.
“It’s difficult to stop him and he showed up not in a good moment for us.”