Having just sat through what was a rather entertaining league tie between Real Madrid and Levante, there was something screaming out at me. No, not the fact that Carlo Ancelotti seems in rather good shape for a man his age these days. What I couldn’t ignore was Cristiano Ronaldo’s behaviour throughout the match.
We’ve all, I’m sure, been aware of the criticism of Gareth Bale of late – some of it from the Spanish press, but more from the Madridistas themselves. His performance tonight, an indication of mental strength in the young Welshman that I, personally, didn’t think he possessed, was one that should have been cheered and lauded amongst his team-mates. But what did we see from Ronaldo when Bale opened the scoring around 20 minutes in? Petulance. The only word for it. Bale’s goal was the result of a rebound from a Ronaldo shot that failed to result in a goal. However, instead of seeing the benefit both for the team and for an individual team-mate in scoring a vital opening goal, Ronaldo seemed unable to put aside his annoyance that it wasn’t his name on the scoresheet. Annoyance that was, no doubt, increased by the fact that goal number 2 for Los Blancos was also credited to Bale, who deflected a Ronaldo shot towards goal.
This behaviour didn’t go unnoticed. Such features of Ronaldo’s play was commented on by Irish commentator Gerry Armstrong, covering the game for Sky Sports. BBC presenter Gary Lineker commented on Twitter that Ronaldo appears to have entered a phase where his own records have taken precedence for him over the results of the team. Numerous times throughout the match, Ronaldo’s play seemed hampered by his inability to see beyond his own benefit. He was, at one time, so adept at dragging the sides he played in through matches by the scruff of their necks – not by simply scoring goals, but by also laying chances on a plate for team mates to slot home. The latter seems so few and far between these days.
I discussed these observations with a friend as we watched the game. We agreed that Ronaldo seemed, as I said, in some way hampered by his own frustration at not having scored. I feel that the way in which he seems to be playing just recently is stopping him being seen for the great player we all know he is. His performances are less memorable than those of years gone by. While he tops lists for various statistics consistently, his performances are, in my view, not exciting to watch. There is no doubt Ronaldo will go down in history as one of the greatest ever to have played the game – but will he be remembered with the nostalgia or affection of some that have gone before? Roberto Baggio, Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, Ronaldo (the original) – all players who do not come near to Cristiano in terms of on-the-field statistics. But ask any football fan of the last 20 years about these players and they will, no doubt, remember them as players who produced exciting, unforgettable and iconic moments in world football that are still looked back on today and will be for many years to come.
C. Ronaldo has already contributed such moments to the annals of footballing history, but I fear his determination to top the charts ahead of being part of a great side with great performances, could hamper the memory of the player. He is, without a doubt, one of the most technically gifted to have played the game. Write him down on paper and, for sure, you’ll have the best player Football Manager has ever seen. But I don’t want to idolise a robot. I don’t want to look back and see only numbers. I want moments, clips, pieces of treasure to be cherished for years to come. So come on Cristiano, your place in the stats book is more than safe. Go back to what you did best as a youngster – excite us.