Roma midfielder David Pizarro has hit out at Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo saying that his tricks are unnecessary and show a lack of respect for the opposition. He says Ronaldo is a show off and big headed. Whilst this comment has all the hallmarks of being a great big dish of sour grapes, I wonder if he has a point.
I know that if Ronaldo was performing needless step-overs in the middle of the field against the team I support, I would be upset, frustrated and probably yell at my team encouraging someone to ‘put him under’. That’s human nature and I think everyone could understand that.
This is the second time this season that this issue has come up in relation to Manchester United players. In the FA Cup tie with Arsenal which United won comfortably there was a passage of play where Nani had a little game of ‘keepy-ups’. This incensed the Arsenal players and two or three of them tried to exact immediate revenge. Indeed, Gallas was seen kicking Nani from behind off the ball a few minutes later.
So is what has become known as showboating a great piece of skill and entertainment or the demonstration of a lack of respect for the opposition and something that should be frowned upon?
Well, as a Watford and England fan I don’t feel truly qualified to give an opinion, as the last England player to have that sort of flair was probably Paul Gascoigne and the last Watford player, was probably John Barnes. Either way, none of ‘my’ players are likely to be rebuked for this type of thing.
As football fans we can all admire the defensive qualities of a Maldini or Ferdinand, the hardness of a John Terry or Cannavaro. We can gasp at the agility of keepers like Cech and Casillas. We can sit back and recognise the driving brilliance of Steve Gerrard, the crossing of David Beckham or the finishing prowess of Ruud Van Nistlerooy. Having said all of that, it is the flair players, the skilful ones, the ‘show offs’ that get us all out of our seats.
England are crying out for a flair player who can run at people with pace and beat them with skill. David Ginola was bemoaning the lack of such players the other day after the France against England game. Not only are they effective, they are wonderful to watch.
In a list of greatest ever players in the Premier League who would get mentioned? Cantona, Zola, Bergkamp, Henry? Shearer would make the list and he would be the exception to the rule. The other names are all flair players. They are all players who produced tricks and skills that were not always necessary as such, but they entertained the fans more than any others.
Most of us love watching players who can do special things with the ball. We might not like it when they do it against our team, but as a neutral, it is exciting and fun to watch.
Football is an entertainment industry. It relies on people wanting to watch it. It is these fantastic players such as Ronaldo that bring in the crowds, bring in the money and encourage youngsters to ‘have a go’ at doing what they do.
When any of the players I have mentioned get or got the ball their teams’ supporters would rise in expectation and anticipation. A buzz goes around the ground and everyone waits to see what will happen. The opposition supporters panic and yell instructions to their team to stop the man with the ball. Doesn’t matter how you do it, just stop him.
Without players such as these the game could become very dull. They are needed. They are admired. A couple of years ago Ronaldinho scored two great goals for Barcelona against Real Madrid at the Bernabau. There are few hatreds like that of the Madrid fans for Barcelona, yet after his goals, the Madrid fans rose to applaud his skills. Great football skill transcends all rivalry. That is why Mr Pizarro should be embarrassed by his comments.
What Ronaldo does is not a lack of respect. It is a supreme young athlete who is super fit, super talented and super confident. He wants to show the World how good he is and he wants people to think he is the best. Yes, if you like, he is showing off. Why shouldn’t he? Ronaldinho shows off when he looks one way and passes the other. Henry shows off when he scores a back heeled goal or pretends to cross the ball while he actually makes a little pass. Zola and Bergkamp constantly showed off their ability by doing the difficult thing brilliantly rather than taking the easy option.
The great players of the past were all show men. Pele showed off when he shot from halfway and dummied the keeper by missing the ball on purpose. Was he disrespectful? Maradona had more tricks than almost any other player. He was just supremely talented, not disrespectful. George Best, according to legend, used to beat his man and then let him recover so that he could beat him again. Is that disrespectful or brilliant and entertaining?
I think it is fair to say that Cristiano Ronaldo is a show off and a big head. Whilst they are not qualities I would normally admire in people I make an exception in the case of brilliant footballers. If I had the ability he has I would undoubtedly show it off and I would undoubtedly be big headed. I would have every right to be. If I looked like he does and had his money I reckon I would be pretty unbearable!
So I say, shut up Pizarro. Long may Cristiano Ronaldo continue doing his tricks, entertaining us all and annoying the hell out of the opposition.
Graham Fisher writes at Views of a fan. Article originally written for Soccer News.