• Andrew Starc

Here's why Cristiano Ronaldo is football's 'Giraffe'

Cristiano Ronaldo's GOAT status may be debatable. What isn't, however, is his 'Giraffe' status.


So why is the Portuguese called 'The Giraffe?'


Quite simply, he's the best header goalscorer in history. It's not just the quantity Ronaldo's scored – 130 and counting – but the way he scores them.


Like the one he netted against Roma in the 2008 Champions League quarter-final – perhaps his greatest ever. From off-screen, Cristiano suddenly hurtles in at full flight and lunges headfirst at the ball to score.



The GOAT conversation may generally veer in favour of Lionel Messi. But when it comes to headers, Ronaldo far outshines the Argentine, who's scored just 24 in his career.


Let's take a look at what makes Cristiano 'The Giraffe' – the best header goalscorer in history.


Ronaldo's vertical leap is higher than most NBA players'


In 2011 documentary Ronaldo: Tested to the Limit, Cristiano's vertical leap was recorded at 31in (78cm). For perspective, the average NBA player's is 28in (71cm).


Even in his mid thirties, Ronaldo can still reach these heights. Scoring against Sampdoria in Serie A, he soared 30 in (71cm) in the air, his head reaching a height of 8.39ft – which is taller than the crossbar.



Why Cristiano's heading technique is the best in the world


Former Chelsea and Celtic striker, Tony Cascarino, was known as one of the most effective headers of the ball during his career in the late 80's and 90's. In his column for The Times, he explained why Ronaldo is the 'giraffe.'


"The 34-year-old Portuguese has taken heading to a new level and has mastered so many different types of header when most players are lucky to be good at one or two."


"I always thought the best aspect of my game was my heading and there were not many better than me in England while I was playing. But Ronaldo is a class above anyone who has ever played the game."


"Ronaldo's heading is like a perfect golf swing, everything is working in tandem and when it all clicks there is little you can do to stop him."


"His body shape has changed a lot over the years and he has clearly spent a lot of time working on his upper body strength."


"This allows him to lift himself into the air and get his body in the right position to head the ball."


"Ronaldo has thighs that look naturally big but he has done plenty of work to bulk them up and they play a key role in the explosiveness of his jumping."


Below: Watch one of Cristiano's best headers ever, against his old club Manchester United.



Why he's The Giraffe: Ronaldo's big game headers


It's not just Ronaldo's freakish natural ability that makes him the 'Giraffe.' Or the range of headers he scores.


It's also when he scores them – under pressure, in the biggest games, when they're needed the most.


Here are some of his best headers scored in finals.


Ronaldo heads Manchester United to FA Cup Victory


It was Cristiano's first major final – the 2004 FA Cup decider between Manchester United and Millwall at the Millennium stadium in Cardiff, Wales.


With the score locked at 0-0, just before half-time the 19-year-old Ronaldo ghosts into the box to head home a cross. Manchester United went on to win the game 3-0.


Below: Watch Ronaldo's header vs Millwall in the 2004 FA Cup final


Ronaldo's header vs Chelsea: 2008 Champions League Final


It was Cristiano's first of his now five Champions League triumphs.


The 23-year-old Ronaldo had just weeks before captured the Premier League title with Manchester United, finishing as the competition's second-top scorer with 19 goals. Chelsea had finished third, with the Champions League their last chance for silverware.


At the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Ronaldo opens the scoring with one of the best headers in Champions League final history.


Chelsea's Frank Lampard would score an equaliser just before half time. But Manchester United went on to win 6-5 on penalties – with Cristiano uncharacteristically missing his spot-kick.


Below: Watch Ronaldo's header vs Chelsea in the 2008 Champions League final


Ronaldo's header vs Barcelona: 2011 Copa Del Rey final


It was the one shining moment for Cristiano's Real Madrid in 2011 – their Copa Del Rey triumph at the Mestalla Stadium in Valencia, Spain.


They were facing perhaps the greatest Barcelona side in history, at the peak of their powers.


The match goes into extra time, when in the 103rd minute, Angel Di Maria whips a cross into the box, and Ronaldo heads it home.


Thanks to the header, Cristiano denied Lionel Messi's Barcelona from claiming a hat-trick of silverware, with the Catalonians going on to win both La Liga and the Champions League.


Below: Watch Ronaldo's header vs Barcelona in the 2011 Copa Del Rey final.


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