As brilliant as he is irreproachable throughout his career as a footballer, Cristiano Ronaldo is gradually chipping away at his legend. And squandered, according to a more than controlled end of career, the respect he had managed to impose.
“Sunday the king plays.” At the heart of a summer period polluted by rumors of departure – and carried out on his side, far from the preparatory Asian tour of Manchester United -, Cristiano Ronaldo wanted to put the dots on the i. Against Rayo Vallecano in a friendly last Sunday, the king was back.
But the image of the adulated king, above all undisputed, seems to be gradually crumbling. Over questionable choices and attitudes at the twilight of the career of the Portuguese, 37 years old. The symbol of Ronaldo, that of the model of exemplarity and professionalism, even becomes shaken by former legends of the game, or by his own coach. That it seems further and further away, the Madrid climax of “CR7”.
A departure from Real as a tipping point
Going back a few years, it is probably the episode of his departure from Real Madrid that seems to set the tone for the progressive downgrading of the legendary striker. Not supported by his club regarding his problems with the Spanish tax authorities in 2017, not considered at his fair value – financially as well as human – by its president Florentino Pérez, Ronaldo prefers to slam the door. After nine staggering seasons in Spain, 16 trophies (including four Champions Leagues) gleaned and 450 goals in 438 games.
“I felt inside the club, especially from the president, that I was no longer considered as at the start, he conceded afterwards in France Football. The first four or five years, I had the feeling of being Cristiano Ronaldo. Less afterwards.” Left to try his luck in Italy to continue to maintain his myth as much as to restore his self-esteem, the fivefold Ballon d’Or will never shine like before.
There will be these three seasons with more than 25 goals (28 in 2018-2019, 37 in 2019-2020 and 36 in 2020-2021), these two titles of champion of Italy too, but the child of Madeira does not manage more about being the super impactful player he was. And will eventually find a new way out, a sort of headlong rush, returning to Manchester United.
Jorge Mendes knocks on every door, no one answers
Like his rival and best enemy Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo is obsessed with winning the Champions League first. He will never have succeeded at Juve, and will now be content at United to be able to play it. Still the best scorer in the history of the competition, the insatiable scorer does not want to see his position as sovereign of the C1 slip through his fingers. His first Mancunian season allows him to play it, and to add six units to his list of 140 goals in the queen of European cups.
But the Reds Devils, sixth in the Premier League 2021-2022 despite the 18 domestic goals of “CR7”, only hang in the Europa League. Unthinkable at first glance for someone who has only played in the Champions League since the 2002-2003 season. And who therefore hastens to look for a way out.
Supported this summer in his mission by the super-agent with the most influential address book in the world of football, Ronaldo is sent to the four corners of Europe by Jorge Mendes. Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City, Chelsea, Atlético de Madrid, Naples, Sporting Portugal, Bayern Munich and even the intimate enemy, FC Barcelona, all the big cars go there, as long as they are qualified for the next C1.
Rumors are rife, Ronaldo denies them. “Impossible not to talk about me for a day,” he quips on social networks. Still, the damage is done. And that his popularity rating, even in Manchester, where the prince began his fable, is withering.
“Sometimes you have to step back to move forward”
So at the slightest misstep, the vox populi don’t miss the opportunity to come across the man, so long blameless. Unable to stay until the end of MU-Rayo Vallecano last Sunday after spending his first 45 minutes of pre-season with the Mancunian jersey, Ronaldo is caught by the goal of a supporter in flagrante delicto, leaving Old Trafford then as his boyfriends finished playing the club’s last warm-up game before the start of the Premier League season.
Erected as the example of professional commitment par excellence, Ronaldo is no longer there, is only the shadow of the one who commanded the respect of all. “If he wants to leave, Manchester United should facilitate his departure, puts bluntly a former legend of the Red Devils, Gary Neville, not tender with his former partner in the show Overlap. Every press conference that Ten Hag makes is polluted by “The Ronaldo problem. If a player becomes the dominant factor, a distraction for the manager at press conferences, there’s only one thing you can do. We all know that. Sometimes you have to step back to go forward.”
Coming to Manchester to breathe new life into it, Erik ten Hag took the risk of publicly criticizing the casual attitude of his star. No player is above the lot, tried to admit the Batavian. But ten Hag knows it well: Cristiano Ronaldo, thanks to the best version of himself displayed during 20 seasons of a mostly brilliant career, will always remain apart. Otherwise, what’s the point of being the king.