I begin by pointing out that I am not a fan of Real Madrid. Nor am I particularly a fan of their 80 million pound superstar, Cristiano Ronaldo. Whilst I am an admirer of his footballing talents, he has been rightfully condemned in the past for his selfishness, blatant simulation and arrogance.
His often unsportsmanlike behaviour was never more evident than in the 2006 World Cup, through his infamous wink, which followed the sending off of England’s Wayne Rooney. The English media vilified him, with The Sun releasing a headline in their newspaper proclaiming that “Cristiano Ronaldo will be ditched by Manchester United because of his World Cup shame.”
However, he managed to win back the English fans (and to a certain extent the media) courtesy of his fantastic displays over the next couple of seasons, but the temptation of Madrid eventually proved to be irresistible. As his six-year career at Manchester United drew to a close at the end of the 2008-09 season and he prepared for his inevitable transfer, doubts were already being raised over his ability to gel with the other egos of the Madrid dressing room.
As world famous names such as Kaka and Benzema flocked to the Spanish club during a massive summer spending spree to join the likes of Sergio Ramos and Raul, it quickly became apparent that Ronaldo would not be the dominant force of the team as he was at United.
The vultures watched and waited with anticipation, hoping to see signs of friction between Ronaldo and his new team-mates that they could pounce upon. They are still waiting. Ronaldo put in his best performance in a Madrid shirt on the weekend, inspiring the team to a 6-2 thumping of Villarreal, which leaves them only two points behind league leaders Barcelona.
But apart from his trademark free-kick to open the scoring and his usual flicks and tricks, it was his tireless running and teamwork which highlighted his maturity as a footballer. Add an end product to his work ethic which yielded two assists plus the winning of a penalty and it was hard to see how the media could turn this performance into a controversy.
Yet, predictably, the post-match focus has been on a reported “dispute” between Ronaldo and Xabi Alonso over who should take a penalty in the dying stages of the match. Spanish television station Canal+ aired the following discussion:
Alonso: Cris, give it to me… because I haven’t even scored one goal. Let me score one, let me.
Ronaldo: The next one, I promise you.
Alonso: No, stop. Give me this one. Come on, give me the ball.
Ronaldo played down the incident after the match with an increasingly familiar shrug and quick explanation,
I gave the ball to Xabi because there are enough chances for everyone. The team played well and there is no need to worry about what happened in Lyon. Here we all win and lose together.
His team-mates, all too aware of the media’s intentions to disrupt the harmony of the team, have also been quick to dismiss the incident. Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain, a two-goal hero in the rout, noted that Alonso wanted to score his first goal in a Madrid shirt and that there was nothing more to it.
A similar incident occurred against Almeria earlier in the season, when it was reported that Ronaldo failed to celebrate after his missed penalty was netted on the rebound by a team-mate. In his short Madrid career, he has also been described as an “idiot” by the Spanish media for reckless red cards for violent conduct against lowly Almeria and Malaga. His response was one of understandable frustration against the referee and the media, labelling the red card against Malaga a “disgrace.”
People who understand football know that my intention is always to try and play…I know you saw blood on the T.V. screens but I was just trying to break free. I never try to hurt anyone.
I am not trying to claim that Ronaldo is perfect, he certainly is not. However, there are those within the media and footballing circles who love nothing more than for a chance to bring him down. This is due to his world famous status, his ability to generate and earn so much money and the fact that he is an entertainer who brings both joy and despair to fans.
He has become increasingly embroiled in a lose-lose situation, as the outcome from the match against Villarreal largely demonstrated. Here’s hoping he can have the last laugh against his jealous detractors…