While 2015 couldn’t have got off to a better start for Cristiano Ronaldo when he won his second Ballon d’Or on the trot, it’s fairly safe to say that it is rapidly turning in to his own “annus horribilis.”
If football teaches us anything, it’s that form is temporary and class is permanent. Yet the fact remains that, in terms of good and bad weeks, the last few have been about as bad as you can get for the Portuguese superstar
It’s no secret that since 2012, CR7 and his team have laboured long and hard to create an image befitting one regarded—quite rightly—as one of the greatest players in the history of the game.
The image of a good, solid, loyal and encouraging team-mate; remember his much-publicised welcoming handshake with Gareth Bale when the Welshman first arrived for training; a good family man, one of the boys who believes there’s no “I” in team and an all-round good egg.
But within the space of a few weeks, he has contrived to sling all the hard work down the swanny, leaving many people less than impressed with his general demeanour and behaviour, both on and off the pitch.
Where to begin?
Lets start with the silly scream he launched at the presentation of the Ballon d’Or trophy that had just about everyone squirming in their seats.
It was something that began in a Real Madrid pre-season match in Los Angeles, a scream that is emitted by way of celebrating just about anything that happens on the pitch—be it a save or a shot or a goal or whatever, both in matches and in training.
He later said it was a message to his team-mates to Spanish television station Cuatro (h/t Goal.com). Whoever it was for, the vast majority of those present deemed it inappropriate.
We then got his sending-off against Cordoba—a sending-off, incidentally, that could have happened earlier—and the juvenile pointing to, and brushing down of, the Club World Cup winners badge on his shirt as he strutted off the pitch.
Then, following the humbling by Atletico, he accused a journalist of being unintelligent for having the temerity to ask him a question about his sending-off at Cordoba.
And last, but by no means least, the infamous 30th birthday party he held against the advice and wishes of many at Real Madrid following last weekend’s 4-0 thumping.
Images on social media sites placed there by his “friend,” the singer Kevin Roldan, have done further damage, although those seeking to blame the Colombian entertainer would be better served to look at Cristiano himself for holding a bash that everyone feels should never have taken place.
The implication, of course, is that what Cristiano wants, Cristiano gets and that his wishes are more important than those of the club.
So now it’s damage-limitation time, with Ronaldo’s entourage announcing that he is asking to be forgiven, as reported by Marca, for all his recent transgressions and he is deeply sorry.
Unfortunately, their attitude to Roldan would suggest, however, that what they are really sorry about is not that he has behaved inappropriately but rather the fact that he was caught doing so.
So which is the real Ronaldo? Well, actually I think it’s a bit of both. What you get from Cristiano is that total selfish obsession and compulsive focus that has taken him to the very top of his profession but that comes with that rebellious streak that has always been inside him.
And here’s the rub. He might just have got away with all of it had his performances of late been of the required standard. They haven’t.
From March to July last year, he was either injured or playing while carrying an injury which meant he couldn’t give of his best either at the World Cup or towards the end of the season at Real.
He started well in September, but from December onwards, he has been off-colour.
I believe that his body is giving him problems and, for the first time, imposing limitations on his performances.
His game has changed into one where he is effectively a centre-forward waiting for the play rather than making it, which—while creating a goalscorer—also makes for a player who has less influence on the general pattern of the game.
To add insult to injury, it will not have escaped his attention that in addition to these being his bad times, they have also coincided with the spectacular return to form being enjoyed by one Leo Messi.
Let’s see now what the future holds for him both as a player and a person.