Cristiano Ronaldo Film Is a Tale of Ego, Loneliness and the Quest for Perfection

Ryan Bailey@ryanjaybaileyFeatured ColumnistNovember 5, 2015

FILE - In this Sept. 23, 2014 file photo Real's Cristiano Ronaldo holds the ball as he celebrates his four goals during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Elche at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain. Ronaldo is one of the three finalists for the Ballon d'Or, the FIFA World Player of the Year award.   (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki, files)
Andres Kudacki/Associated Press

"Look, which car is missing?" says Cristiano Ronaldo to his son as they walk on the driveway of their opulent Madrid home.

"The Rover?" asks 5-year-old Cristiano Jr, casting his eyes across a garage so full of supercars that it could make Floyd Mayweather turn green with envy. 

"No, the Rover is here! Which one is missing? Look at them all!" says the Real Madrid star, encouraging his son—and therefore the viewer—to survey his luxurious fleet of cars.

"The Porsche?"

"Look properly! Look properly!"

"The Royce?"

"No! It's one that's very fast," says an increasingly frustrated Ronaldo, sending his son into the depths of the garage to further evaluate the automotive spoils of his riches. After some thought, the answer comes:

"Ah! The Lamborghini!"

And thus, the super-rich equivalent of hide-and-seek is over. Cristiano Jr is a winner, and Cristiano Sr is a winner—at life. 

Ronaldo's new documentary—brought to us by the people behind the critically acclaimed Senna and Amy—offers unprecedented access to the superstar forward, bookended by his 2013 Ballon d'Or win and his all-conquering desire to retain the trophy for 2014. 

Over 102 minutes, we learn plenty about the Portuguese megastar, the world he lives in and his primary support system: his family.

His mother Dolores Aveiro must take sedatives during games to cope with the stress of being the mother of "a player who wants to win."

The woman who brought Ronaldo into this world also admits that he was unwanted. "He was a child I wanted to abort," she openly confesses. 

Manchester United's Portuguese midfielder Cristiano Ronaldo (R) gets a hug from his mother Delores Avero (L) after the 0-0 draw with Arsenal in the English Premier League football match at Old Trafford, Manchester, north-west England, on May 16, 2009.The
ADRIAN DENNIS/Getty Images

His father, meanwhile, was the kit man at his first club, Andorinha. Dinis Aveiro eventually succumbed to alcoholism—a disease that also affected Ronaldo's older brother Hugo, who now runs the egocentric endeavour that is Ronaldo's museum in Madeira.

We also learn that, outside of the company of his car-literate son, Ronaldo leads the kind of lonely existence that one may suspect of a man who is far too famous to casually pop to the shops.

"Most of the time I am alone," he admits in a statement that casts question marks on the five-year relationship he apparently enjoyed with Russian supermodel Irina Shayk. "I go to bed when I want, I swim when I want. It's been like this since I started playing football."

The tidbits we glean about the former Manchester United star's private life, however, are overshadowed by confirmation of a fact that we are well aware of: Cristiano Ronaldo is not short on self confidence.

When the cameras follow the protagonist to last summer's disappointing World Cup outing, we are eventually told that he went to Brazil with an injury and that he wished he had actually stayed home. Trying to rationalise his decision to take the national team spotlight, he says: "If we had two or three Cristiano Ronaldos in the team, I would feel more comfortable. But we don’t."

One can only imagine his Portugal teammates apologising profusely for not being Cristiano Ronaldo clones. 

Cristiano Jr, son of Real Madrid and Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo, looks over the speech podium on stage as his fathers receives the 2014 FIFA Ballon d'Or award for player of the year during the FIFA Ballon d'Or award ceremony at the Kongresshaus in
FABRICE COFFRINI/Getty Images

In another scene, Ronaldo is painted as a "normal person" while chatting with a fellow parent on the school run. When Cristiano Jr notes that the parent is "bigger" than his daddy, Ronaldo immediately retorts: "He is bigger, but I am much stronger. Don't you see that?"

Ronaldo's ego and insecurity are no more visible than when his agent Jorge Mendes is on screen. Mendes—whose mobile phone might be surgically attached to the side of his head—appears to go well beyond the call of duty by attending family meals and making heartfelt speeches, perhaps in lieu of a father figure. However, his and Ronaldo's interactions typically revolve around mutual recognition that each is the very best in his respective field.  

Notably, there is very little talk of winning team trophies or camaraderie with his colleagues: Ronaldo's focus—at least in the edit of this documentary—is almost exclusively on winning the greatest individual prize in the game: the Ballon d'Or.  

Real Madrid and Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo (C) poses with his son Cristiano Jr (2nd L), mother Dolores (2nd R), brother Hugo (R) and an unidentified family member   after receiving the 2014 FIFA Ballon d'Or award for player of the year during the
FABRICE COFFRINI/Getty Images

Yet for all the hubris and egomania, the documentary does offer a few glimpses behind Brand CR7.

Many of the endearing interactions with his son and mother paint the picture of a man who rates family above all else—possibly even himself. 

And in a film that is stage-managed to convey its star's infallibility and individual strength, we are given a fleeting glance behind the proverbial mask during footage of his 2009 unveiling at the Bernabeu.

In the tunnels beneath the stadium, the camera catches him looking pensive and afraid. That fear is very quickly replaced with a confident smile at the precise moment he emerges in front of 80,000 adoring new fans. One can almost imagine him saying "Showtime!" in his head as he enters the limelight.

The only other attempt to show his vulnerability comes during a slightly contrived sequence when Ronaldo is aboard a plane headed to the World Cup in Portugal. He sings the Rihanna hit with the refrain "I want you to stay" while Cristiano Jr asks when his daddy is coming home. (After three games is the answer.)     

Ultimately, Ronaldo lacks drama and an ability to highlight the pitfalls of its star—something you may expect from the makers of Senna.

Yet in a documentary about a man with unfaltering self-belief, perhaps it is appropriate to avoid the lows and doubts. Maybe there aren't any lows and doubts in his sphere of excellence

Regardless, it is a fascinating glance into a life and career of a man who clearly demands OCD levels of perfection in all areas of his life. (From the idyllic Stepford Wives manner in which he and Cristiano Jr sit down for breakfast, one might imagine that a drop of spilled orange juice would result in the meal being abandoned, the kitchen being bulldozed and rebuilt on a different wing of the house.)

Jon Super/Associated Press

And it is worth the price of admission alone for the scene at the 2014 Ballon d'Or awards, at which Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are milling in the same room prior to the ceremony. "Who is that man over there in the suit?" asks Ronaldo of his son, pointing in the direction of his La Liga rival. 

Cristiano Jr is clearly delighted to meet the Barcelona star, while his father fails to speak with him directly. Earlier in the documentary, Ronaldo seriously downplays his rivalry with the Argentinian—but it is clear from this interaction that they are not the best of friends. 

Those in search of a warts-and-all expose of a year in the life of Cristiano Ronaldo may be disappointed. But is this film worth seeing as a snapshot of one of the greatest sportsmen of the modern era? The answer is definitive...

Ronaldo is released in the UK on November 9, 2015.

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