Portugal Running World Cup Risk with Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid

Samuel Marsden@@samuelmarsdenFeatured ColumnistJune 4, 2014

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo, centre, laughs with teammates Fabio Coentrao, left, and Pepe prior a friendly soccer match between Portugal and Greece at the National stadium, in Oeiras, near Lisbon, Saturday, May 31, 2014. The game was a warm-up match for both teams ahead the World Cup in Brazil. The match ended in a 0-0 draw. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
Francisco Seco/Associated Press

Cristiano Ronaldo may have been grinning from ear to ear on Monday when he and his Portugal team mates posed for a selfie with Anibal Cavaco Silva, the Portuguese president, but that smile could soon turn in to a grimace if injury rules him out of Paulo Bento’s lineup when their World Cup campaign kicks off against Germany on June 16.

And it would seem like that could be a possibility after Marca, as translated by Football Espana, reported confirmation from Portugal that Ronaldo “is suffering with tendonitis in the patella tendon of his left leg, although he is back in training.”

The ball work the Ballon d’Or winner did with coach Antonio Gaspar on Tuesday is a positive sign for his national team, though, and with 12 days until their opener, there doesn’t seem to be any major alarm bells ringing over the possible absence of their star player.

However, if they do force him into action too soon, it could risk the long term fitness of the player and therefore, in the long run, would risk the wrath of the European Champions, Ronaldo’s club Real Madrid.

Los Blancos are said to be “concerned with Ronaldo’s fitness and are worried he could aggravate his injuries during the World Cup.”

Club president Florentino Perez has already fired a warning.

In an interview with El Laguero, per Spanish publication Marca, he said: “I worry that one of our players will get injured at the World Cup, like [Sami] Khedira did [when he was playing for Germany]. Players like Cristiano Ronaldo must only play when they are fit.”

The 29-year-old had finished the domestic season struggling with a muscle injury, withdrawing from a match against Espanyol after struggling in the warm-up, but he did complete 120 minutes in the Champions League final against Atletico Madrid.

Portugal’s problem, when it comes to choosing how much rest he requires, is that their toughest group game comes first.

Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

MADRID, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 27:  Fans show their appreciation for injured Real Madrid player Cristiano Ronaldo during the UEFA Champions League group B match between Real Madrid CF and Galatasaray AS at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on November 27, 2013 in Madri
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

With Germany, always ranked among the pre-tournament favourites, to come in their curtain-raiser it is easy to see why Bento may be tempted to rush Ronaldo, by far his squad’s best and most important player, back in to action.

However, even with Ronaldo, success against the Germans isn’t guaranteed and it could mean that he would then struggle to be fit for the next, equally as vital, group matches against the USA, six days later on June 22, and Ghana, on June 26.

So often you see players thrown into games they were not ready for and then witness them struggle to perform—think the Brazilian Ronaldo in the 1998 World Cup final right through to Diego Costa in recent matches against Barcelona and Real Madrid.

If he’s not ready, it is not in Portugal’s or Real Madrid’s interest for Cristiano to play against Germany.

The chances are, though, given the determination which Ronaldo possesses to be involved in every minute of every game, especially in a competition like the World Cup, he will be named in Bento’s side for the first group match.

Portugal’s gamble, if it does indeed prove that, will be a short-term one; for Ronaldo and Madrid the consequences could be much longer-term.