Ronaldo could be the difference for Juventus in Champions League, says Figo

Luis Figo is unsurprised Cristiano Ronaldo continues to excel well into his 30s and believes his fellow Portuguese can be the catalyst for Juventus to win the Champions League.

Ronaldo has scored 19 times in 24 Serie A appearances since moving to the Turin club from Real Madrid last summer and, at 34, is still collecting a haul of individual accolades.

Former Madrid winger Figo believes players are better conditioned in the modern era and he expects Ronaldo to stay at the top level for some time to come.

Cristiano Ronaldo has been a big hit since joining Juventus in the summer
Cristiano Ronaldo has been a big hit since joining Juventus in the summer (Martin Rickett/PA)

Speaking in his role as a Laureus Ambassador in Monaco, Figo said: “There are much more games now and of course you have to take care of yourself if you want to play until you’re 36 or 37.

“In these days the people take care of themselves very well. My generation or before my generation you probably finish earlier but now you can play until 36 easily.”

Juventus have not won the Champions League in 23 years although they have reached the final five times since then, including two of the last four.

On the last occasion in 2017, Ronaldo was on the opposite side, scoring twice in a 4-1 win as Madrid claimed the second of three successive crowns in Europe’s elite club competition.

Real Madrid lifted the Champions League in 2017 at the expense of Juventus in the final
Real Madrid lifted the Champions League in 2017 at the expense of Juventus in the final (Nick Potts/PA)

With Ronaldo now in their ranks, Figo thinks Juventus have a better opportunity to go all the way this season – although he added that they face a tough tie in the last 16 against Atletico Madrid.

He said: “I’m sure he can because he’s one of the best and he’s showing that in the domestic league they don’t have an opponent in Italy.

“I think they are one of the favourites (to win the Champions League).

“They play against Atletico Madrid next, it’s always very tough because they are always very intensive and of course they have excellent motivation as they could play the final back home. It will be a nice two games to watch.”

Luis Figo, left, enjoyed an illustrious career with club and country
Luis Figo, left, enjoyed an illustrious career with club and country (Martin Rickett/PA)

Figo made more than 200 appearances for Real Madrid across five seasons, helping them to two LaLiga titles and one Champions League crown.

The capital club are currently nine points behind Barcelona in the domestic standings – another of Figo’s former teams – after some upheaval earlier in the season, with Santiago Solari taking charge following the sacking of Julen Lopetegui last October.

Figo, though, pointed out that they remain in the hunt, saying: “They’re still alive in all the competitions. When you have those chances you have to believe in that.

“I can’t answer another thing because in a club like Real Madrid they never give up unless it’s mathematically not possible.”

Gareth Bale has been backed by Figo to carry on succeeding at Real Madrid
Gareth Bale has been backed by Luis Figo to carry on succeeding at Real Madrid (Nick Potts/PA)

Gareth Bale bagged his 100th goal for Madrid earlier this month, although he has been criticised in some quarters for failing to properly integrate at the club despite being there since 2013.

Figo said: “I’m focused on if he has the performances he should have or not. The rest, if he’s shy or not shy, I don’t think it counts so much.

“Of course when you are shy it is more difficult to integrate but he’s already had so many years at the club. I don’t think that is a problem for a person that plays football.”

The Laureus World Sports Awards celebrate the most remarkable men and women from the world of sport along with their achievements from the previous calendar year. The Awards also showcase the work of Laureus Sport for Good, a charity which uses the power of sport to end violence, discrimination and disadvantage.