Cristiano Ronaldo arrived at Windsor Park yesterday no less a player but no more a record-breaker.
Since last Monday, Gareth Bale has been the most expensive footballer in the world, leaving his new Real Madrid teammate officially – if not factually – £5.3million less of a player than the Welshman.
Of course money and reality are unfamiliar bedfellows when it comes to football. But as Northern Ireland hosted Portugal in last night’s World Cup qualifier, the home fans took great joy in reminding Ronaldo his world record fee had been bettered.
“You’re just a cheap Gareth Bale,” was the chant from the stands, more in playfulness than malice, but you wondered how the former Manchester United forward would take the jibes.
With Northern Ireland leading with 67 minutes on the clock, it appeared Ronaldo was having one of those days. And then came a 15-minute hat-trick that turned a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 lead.
It was a match that saw almost as many dismissals as goals, as Portugal had Helder Postiga sent off for a head-butt and then Northern Ireland’s Chris Brunt and Kyle Lafferty saw red to allow the away side back into the game.
Two headers and a free-kick saw Ronaldo go from anonymous to vital, leaving the home fans with only their sense of humour to keep them smiling.
While the Portuguese was almost single-handedly winning one match, Bale sat on the Welsh bench for the duration of their 2-1 loss to Macedonia.
And as “cheap” as Ronaldo may now be in comparison with the former Tottenham player, Bale has some way to go before matching the exploits of a man who last night became Portugal’s second highest goal-scorer of all time.
image: © Jan S0L0