After Cristiano Ronaldo’s incredible hat-trick against Tottenham Hotspur, Antonio Conte lauded him as one of the four best players in history.
For the umpteenth time this season, Ronaldo, 37, defied his age to lead the Red Devils to victory following a tense match at Old Trafford.
The hat-trick was the Portuguese striker’s 49th of his club career, and he now has 12 goals in 24 Premier League outings this season.
It also brings his total goal tally for club and country to 807, more than any other player in history.
Conte, a five-time Ballon d’Or winner, has long been recognized as one of the two finest players of his generation, with Lionel Messi of Argentina, but he feels he has earned his spot on football’s Mount Rushmore.
“It was a wonderful performance by Cristiano, but I know him very well and it comes as no surprise to me,” Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino remarked after the final whistle.
“We’re talking about a player who, along with Messi, is currently the best player in the world, alongside Maradona and Pele [historically].
“We’re talking about a guy that is decisive, and he’s always there when the team needs him.”
Conte continued his generous praise for Ronaldo by mentioning his incredible six goals in five games in the Champions League group stage this season.
“I recall him being essential in getting Manchester United to the next round in the Champions League,” the Italian stated of Ronaldo.
“He’s a player who understands the nature of the game. We didn’t find him tonight. A huge complement to him, because to get to this age with this physique, mindset, and desire to win, you have to lavish all of the praise on your opponent.”
In a rallying message to his teammates, Ronaldo turned to Instagram after the game to declare that United can overcome “any team on any given day.”
He expressed himself as follows: “I’m overjoyed with my first hat-trick since returning to Old Trafford! Nothing compares to getting back on the field and contributing goals and effort to the squad.
“We’ve demonstrated once again that if we work hard and stick together, we can beat any squad on any given day. For Man, there are no bounds. United! Whatever the case may be! Devils, let’s go!”
Ronaldo will look to add to his 18 goals this season when United hosts Atletico Madrid in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 contest on Tuesday night, after a 1-1 draw in the Spanish capital.