#1: Cristiano Ronaldo, POR

Considering his sustained brilliance for Real Madrid -- 84 goals and 22 assists in 67 games over the past two seasons -- it's a wonder that the world isn't running out of adjectives to describe the Portuguese forward's play. Whether deployed on the flanks or through the middle, exhibiting his lethal skills and swagger from set pieces or close range, Ronaldo is the best there is in the European game today. (And the richest, too; $17.06 million in reported salary, as of 2010.)


Though his club side has plenty of world-class talent to surround and support him, Ronaldo's record with Portugal is far less clear, and makes him an intriguing case heading into Euro 2012. Largely expected to single-handedly lift and lead A Seleccao, CRon did manage five goals in qualifying but watched his side struggle, losing to Denmark and Norway but scraping through to a playoff with a superior goal difference. From there, a Ronaldo brace anchored a 6-2 playoff win over Bosnia & Herzegovina, giving the mercurial forward a chance to impress in Poland and the Ukraine.


Such is Ronaldo's career; no matter how incendiary and brilliant he is with globally worshiped teams like Manchester United -- he won three consecutive Premier League titles, a Champions League title, a Ballon D'Or and two PFA Player of the Year awards -- and Real Madrid -- a La Liga title, European Golden Shoe and the inaugural FIFA Puskas Award for "most beautiful goal" -- there is still the sense that he has something to prove. With his country drawn in the toughest group alongside Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark, all eyes will be watching.




Expert's take: A wonderfully talented footballer whose mesmeric qualities know no bounds. The asterisk against him has more to do with his personality. Ronaldo at times is the personification of arrogance. He carries himself in a manner than suggests he has a fair old conceit of himself. Also like Robben, he has a history of tumbling amid the slightest contact. Yet there are few better sights in modern football than the Portuguese attacker outthinking and outdoing opposing defenders. -- Derek Rae


Stats That Matter:


• Scored 100th La Liga goal in 5-1 victory over Real Sociedad on March 24, 2012. He reached the century mark in 92 league matches, making him the second fastest player in La Liga history to the 100-goal mark (Isidro Lángara, 82)


• Owns second and third highest single-season goal totals in La Liga history with 46 goals in 2011-12 and 40 goals in 2010-11 (Lionel Messi scored 50 goals in 2011-12)


• Has only two international goals in his past three major international competitions (2006 FIFA World Cup, Euro 2008, 2010 FIFA World Cup)


• Has six goals directly from free kicks in league play since the start of the 2010-11 season, most in La Liga


• 86 La Liga goals over the past two seasons, more than any other player. He scored 61 goals with his right foot, 14 with his left foot and 11 with his head


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