Amit Mandora writes on Cristiano Ronaldo's quest for global adulation.
The 'second' greatest player in the world and of his generation. Lionel Messi must haunt him on a daily basis as he goes about his business being the best player Real Madrid currently have past, present and future. Comparison after comparison, record after broken record. If you were to feel sorry for one player, Fabrice Muamba aside, Cristiano Ronaldo has to be one unlucky fellow.
He was never to know that during his rise at Sporting Lisbon as an 18 year old that the apparent greatest player of our generation was lighting up Barcelona B in the country next door.
Here is a guy who has 'invented', for want of a better word, his own free kick technique. To the point where players such as Gareth Bale has cottoned on, and himself a talented player, even uses the same posture before the referee has even blown his whistle to take the set piece. This free kick is pretty much unstoppable and shows the measure of a man's willingness to train himself.
The first time that Cristiano was seen on the world stage was when he made a mockery of Rio Ferdinand in a match to inaugurate Sporting's new stadium. Not that this is that hard to do nowadays but when you're that good, to the point where Ferdinand pleaded with Sir Alex Ferguson to sign him, you knew there was a great talent here.
Any fan of English football could see the raw talent that Ronaldo possessed but he brought with him the frailness and a willingness to go to ground at any attempt. This, knee-jerkingly caused the media to get on his back because: 1. He plays for Manchester United and 2. Nobody liked a diving foreigner. Diving is now commonplace in the game and it is no different to claiming a corner kick that never was or the way in which a player will claim he has not fouled a player when he knows he has. The art of misleading the referee has been around for decades. The point here, is that now Cristiano has filled the large boots he created for himself with his extreme ego, now what would you say if he dived during Real Madrid's next game? Probably not much right.
Quite often he is compared to Lionel Messi and that is what humans do unfortunately. To claim something to be better you have to compare it to its nearest rival. However in this case it is difficult to compare. Ronaldo is older yes and of late hasn't scored as much as Messi however that doesn't make him any less spectacular. Something that sticks out is that Ronaldo played for the U18's all the way to the senior squad for Sporting in one season. Ronaldo was breaking records from the youngest of ages, just like his counterpart. There is no point picking out each record as there are so many but a few are highlighted below:
Beating George Best's tally for a winger in a single season with 33 goals.
First Premier League player to win the FIFA World Player of the Year award.
The fastest player to get to 100 goals for Real Madrid.
First player in La Liga to score 40 goals two seasons in a row.
First player to score against every La Liga team in one season.
First player to score in every final he has played in.
First player to win the European Golden Shoe in two different countries.
He is now on 188 goals in 186 appearances for Real Madrid and that is remarkable in itself. There is only one other player that can match such a goals to game ratio and that's the unfortunate part here. In any other century or dimension, Ronaldo would be the best player of his generation. By quite a distance too. He is the finest specimen you could imagine in terms of physique and mental strength. This has all come from dedication to the sport in which he loves. The media like to paint this comparison with Messi as Good vs Evil and not to take anything away from Messi but he's had his own moments of petulance and cheating throughout his illustrious career. Under Sir Alex Ferguson's tutelage, Ronaldo became a man first and footballer second. Now he is the the most expensive signing in football history with a €1bn buy-out clause.
You can't help but feel sorry for Ronaldo having to watch Messi pick up four Ballon d'Ors in a row when he's done nothing wrong himself. You can say he conducts himself in an inflammatory way however that should not take away from his ability in the confines of a football stadium. There isn't a player as devastating that can add power, pace, strength, agility all into one package as well as become a brand sensation. Make the comparison to Messi and you know who would be the underwear model here.
Gerard Piqué aptly put it like this:
"Ronaldo is the best among humans, but Messi is an alien."
He's not wrong either.
image: © Jan S0L0