Cristiano Ronaldo: Both Sides of Genius

Samia I.Contributor IDecember 23, 2008

I have been "trolling" this site for a while now, and I thought it was about time I signed up and made my presence felt. What better way to start with a bang than to write about a player who is loved and hated in equal measure? Although this was written at the time of him winning the Ballon d'Or, I believe the points made through the article are still relevant.

Cristiano Ronaldo is, in his own words, polemical. If you’re too lazy to look up that word in a dictionary, it means controversial. Everything he does or says is scrutinized by the media, who are thanking their lucky stars for having a polarizing player like Ronaldo in their midst to sell papers.

His fans and critics are almost equal in number and equally passionate about making their opinions heard. I belong to the former group, smitten by his skills on the ball and in love with his style on the field. I think it is pretty sad that some people think they come off as more knowledgeable about football by bashing Ronaldo.

On the contrary, it makes them anything but. I don’t expect every single person to admire Ronaldo, but what I do expect is people to appreciate good football for what it is and give credit where it is due. There are some common arguments against Ronaldo that have been thrown around for as long as I can remember. "Diver," "arrogant prick," "big-game choker" are just a few.

While I don’t deny that Ronaldo takes the occasional tumble, I’d like to ask: Who doesn’t? This isn’t to justify something as frustrating as diving, but to point out that a lot of double standards exist when it comes to judging players for their on-field behavior.

After announcing that diving is a despicable act, Steven Gerrard collapsed like a pack of cards in front of Athletico Madrid defenders to unfairly earn a last-minute penalty. And that wasn’t his first time.

Rooney has taken his fair share of dives, but he didn’t have the "diver" tag slapped on him by the media.

Kaka recently got booked for diving, but that is definitely not going to affect his good boy image.

Messi has scored with his hand and spat on an opponent, but all that is brushed under the carpet and not made the focus of water cooler discussions.

The same rules obviously don’t apply for Ronaldo, who is judged, labeled, criticized, and chided for the same things other footballers get away with week in and out.

It is frightening how little the common man knows about how the media work and manipulate public opinion. Their choice of words, the half quotes they choose to publish, and misleading headlines all work to twist the unsuspecting reader’s mind into believing something that is not necessarily true.

Of course, this is more common with tabloids than reputed newspapers, but that doesn’t mean the latter does not do the same once in a while.

I’ve come across several reports on something Ronaldo said and found the quotes to be egotistical. On watching the video interview with the words coming right out of his mouth, I realized the media report with spliced quotes and out-of-context remarks were far removed from what was implied in reality.

A recent example would be Ronaldo’s interview after scoring two free-kicks in a match. When asked about youngster Danny Welbeck, Ronaldo praised him and then went on to joke that his goals were still better, and followed that with a wink at the camera. The newspaper report only published the quote without describing the context—no wonder he comes off as arrogant!

This is just one of many similar instances. There have been many baseless news reports on Ronaldo, some of which he has even sued for, but it’s always the dirt that makes headlines whether true or not!

Furthermore, I don’t understand why personality should matter when we’re talking about a footballer’s talent. George Best’s womanizing tendencies or drinking problems did not stop people from singing praises about his talent as a footballer. The same could be said about Maradona and his drug problems. But hey, different rules always apply for Ronaldo.

The "big-game flop" is another tag that has somehow become associated with Ronaldo over the years. I don’t know what he has to do to shed it. He was impressive in performances in Euro 2004 as a 19-year-old, and later helped Portugal reach the semifinal of the World Cup in 2006, scoring the penalty that eliminated England and was the best player on the pitch against France by a country mile.

Ronaldo scored in the Champions League knock-out stages, quarterfinal, and final in 2007-08, but apparently that isn't enough.

One of the criticisms aimed at Ronaldo is that he scores the bulk of his goals against weaker teams. Anyone who follows football knows that there are few "top" teams, and the rest are average or weak. He’s only complying with the rules of statistics when he scores most of his goals against average oppositions.

Nevertheless, he scored against the top three teams in England last season, and before anyone brings up the Messi-outshined-Ronaldo-in-the-semifinal argument, Messi didn’t take Barcelona past United in those matches and was successfully snuffed out by the United defense. All the dribbling-prowess in the world means nothing if a player can’t help his team win matches or silverware.

That was the reason we were given when Kaka beat Ronaldo to the Ballon d’Or last season. This is the reason I am going to stress when people claim Messi to be the more worthy winner this year.

Such is the polarizing nature of Ronaldo that even after winning the Ballon d’Or, there are people who are still nitpicking while others are justifying why he deserved the award. Some have convinced themselves that Ronaldo can never be good enough, even if he single-handedly eradicates poverty and brings world peace.

At his best, Ronaldo is the best player I’ve ever seen, and I’ve watched a lot of footballers since the time of Jurgen Klinsmann. Others are free to disagree, and I do acknowledge that a lot of it is a matter of opinion, but a minority of football fans opining that Ronaldo is not special doesn’t make that the undisputed truth.

Over the five years that I've closely followed Ronaldo's career, if there's one thing I have learned, it's that critics will always find a way to bring him down. When he started off as a trick-happy, quick-footed winger, critics wrote him off as the next Denilson, saying he was all show and no end product.

When he started scoring in bulk, critics panned him for being selfish and wailed that football was not only about scoring goals. There's a saying that you cannot please all the people all the time, but in Ronaldo's case, he can't seem to please some people at any time.

Regardless of what is said or argued, I am basking in the knowledge that the stand-out player of last season, who brought so much joy to his admirers and United supporters with his goals, skills, talent, and consistency, was recognized for his contributions. He was United’s go-to guy last season, and he didn’t disappoint.

Premier League winner of the last two seasons, Champions League winner last season, the player to break George Best’s record of most goals scored by a midfielder, winner of the European Golden Shoe, PFA Player of the Year for two consecutive years, the Ballon d'Or and UEFA Club Player of the Year—his list of achievements is long.

He has already won most of the major individual awards in football at the young age of 23.

I believe there’s even more to come from Cristiano Ronaldo. Live in fear!