The New Side to Cristiano Ronaldo
Universally adored, universally hated Cristiano Ronaldo is the ultimate ‘Marmite’ footballer. A blue print of man-made footballing success, the Portuguese captain is the guy in school that you hated; good-looking, athletic, stunning girlfriend and was much better than you at football. Loved for his passion and determination, hated for his perceived arrogance.
The final of the European Championships in Paris showed that Ronaldo possess another side to his demeanour. A caring, mature and slightly charming child like desire to win at all costs. Whether the images of him jumping all over Fernando Santos when they clinched they trophy make you smile or not, it is impossible to begrudge arguably the greatest player in the World his biggest success to date.
But perhaps we should have seen it before. For all his whining against Iceland and fits of rage against Hungary, Ronaldo’s incredible show of maturity and leadership came against Poland. With his country on the cusp of going out out European competition it was Ronaldo who convinced a shy and retiring Joao Moutinho to step up and take a spot kick. It was Ronaldo who took responsibility for that first penalty in the shoot out, promptly dispatching a fierce drive into the bottom corner.
When he collapsed on to the turf and the tears started streaming faster than the nearby Siene river, there was almost a sense of deflation in the game. The players, fans and Ronaldo visibly believed that his last chance of securing silverware was disappearing before his very eyes. It felt as though the Ronaldo x Stade de France curse was about to strike again, a full 18 years later, to pull the trophy out of the grasp of the Portuguese.
Whilst the scoring charts show that Ronaldo only needs a split second to decide a game, as did his monumental performance against Wales, his performances accurately show that he is beginning to ‘slow down’. When in attendance at the Stade Velodrome for that quarter final in which Ronaldo thrust Moutinho into the spotlight, it was clear that he no longer has the confidence in himself to win a foot race. It’s easy to forget that, back in 2009, Ronaldo emerged from the summer break a completely different person. Gone were the blonde highlights and wonky teeth, what replaced it was a man of gargantuan proportions who has somehow engineered his body to jump higher than the average NBA player, strike a ball faster than a goalkeeper could react and with lats so big he could take off.
If Lionel Messi is the epitome of natural talent, Ronaldo is that of man-made talent. Someone who pushes his body to the limit, and still does. What we see in Ronaldo now is someone who accepts that he is no longer at his physical peak, who is reinventing himself as a central striker. Someone who realises he can no longer get by on physicality and arrogance, that his team does matter. More importantly he has become to realise that his in an idol to children worldwide and that there is more to football than scoring goals.
Whilst watching him cry on the turf with a gigantic moth stuck to his was the definition of black humour, seeing him smile like a child and will his team to the finish line was a joy to behold. There is a new Ronaldo and we should embrace it.