Did Cristiano Ronaldo Go from Golden Boy to Captain Scapegoat with Reason?

Mike Goncalves@MGoncalves10Correspondent IIIOctober 14, 2011

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK - OCTOBER 11:  Christiano Ronaldo of Portugal in action during the EURO 2012 group H qualifier match between Denmark and Portugal at Parken Stadium on October 11, 2011 in Copenhagen, Denmark.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Since the beginning of the Euro 2012 Qualifications, Portuguese fans and players have had to endure a significant amount of pain and suffering. The Portuguese were placed in a group that included Cyprus, Denmark, Norway and Iceland. With Denmark looking to be there biggest challenge, every match day turned out to be an adventure for the Lusitanos. With rumors surfacing of internal problems between coaches and directors, things looked to be a bit shaky for a team that had just been eliminated by Spain from the World Cup in South Africa.

The Portuguese fans that had such high hopes for the so-called golden generation saw that generation slowly slip away without any silverware. They now faced a new group of men who although on paper look to be one of the strongest teams in the world but, unfortunately, are unable to show that on the pitch.

After being appointed captain in July of 2008 by then coach Carlos Queiroz, Cristiano Ronaldo now not only had to live up to his high expectations, but he also had to set an example on and off the field. His off the field "Hollywood" lifestyle was one of the reasons many questions were raised when he was appointed captain.

His constant run-ins with match officials and opposing players at times can get the 26-year-old’s blood boiling. From his breath taking free kicks to his temper tantrums on the field, Ronaldo has it all. Although he is arguably one of the best to ever play the game, does that really mean he’s good enough to lead his country? Or any team for that matter?

Many long arguments later I’ve come to the realization that you can’t and most likely won’t be able to convince a true Ronaldo fan that he is not the right man for the job. As a Portuguese citizen and a soccer fan in general, my expectations of a captain are either unrealistic or clearly are not what Ronaldo can bring to the table.

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When I think of a captain I think of a leader, someone that is respected on and off the field—a player with some experience and maturity who won’t break down mentally even when times are tough. Someone that even when your team goes down in a very important match won’t fold and won’t let his emotions get to him. A player that has no problem with laying into his players at half time or after a game to let them know that they played poorly, or to let them know they played well. After a big loss, he has to be able to show his face for the team just as he’d gloat and celebrate after an important victory.

Now for those Ronaldo fans that may or may not read this, I am in no way making an attempt to put down Ronaldo or even make him the reason for Portugal’s poor performances. Realistically, I think there is a lot more to it than this.

What I do believe is that the players on the Portuguese National team do not respect Ronaldo on and off the pitch as much as some fans may believe they do. Being the first or second best in the world doesn’t make him a leader. Yes, he’s good. Yes, he has many individual accolades and yes, he has the ability to create a goal from nothing. But does that make him a captain?

When I sit back and think about some of the captains that I’ve watched growing up, I think of names such as Zidane, Cafu and even Figo. Some will be quick to jump on Zidane for his antics in the World Cup Final with Italy, but that was his last match as a professional. Although it was a poor decision, that last moment certainly will not tarnish a stellar career of consistency and pure brilliance. His ability to lift his club team as well as his national team was always something I admired. When his country needed him most he always stepped up to the plate and put in a performance of incredible proportions. His important goals and assists in late stages of International Competitions were just an extra addition of the player who made it look so easy.

Cafu is another example I like to use. He was definitely not the best player on his team or the flashiest, but his teammates respected him on and off the field. Cafu captained star players such as Rivaldo, Ronaldinho and even Ronaldo Fenomeno. Just those three I named were much better overall players than Cafu was, but that didn’t make them leaders. The Brazilian right back always carried himself on and off the field with maturity and was always respected by his opposition.

During the last match against Denmark where Portugal lost 2-1 and were forced into a playoff with Bosnia, Ronaldo clearly let his emotions get to him. Those emotions got to him in such a way that it ended up costing his team a goal. After making a very weak pass across the midfield to Carlos Martins, the pass was picked off. Ronaldo decided he was going to wave his arms around and show his anger at the fact that Carlos Martins didn’t get to that ball, although it was a poor pass from Ronaldo to begin with. He then made no effort to work his way back downfield as he watched the Danish International he would have been marking send a ball into Nicklas Bendtner, who put Denmark up 2-0.

While Ronaldo can easily be considered the best player on the Portuguese squad, his stats pre-captaincy appear to be much better. Before being assigned captaincy in 2008, Ronaldo was able to hit the back of the net 21 times. From those 21 goals, two of those came in Euro 2004 against Greece and the Netherlands, one in the 2006 World Cup against Iran and one against Czech Republic when the two teams met in Euro 2008.

Since being appointed captain he has managed to score nine goals. Of those nine goals he scored one against North Korea in the 7-0 beat down in the World Cup in South Africa, one against Finland in a friendly, two goals against Denmark during Euro 2012 Qualifications, two against Cyprus for Euro Qualifications, one against Iceland, one against Luxembourg and one against Argentina. Of those nine, I think it’s safe to say that the one against Argentina was with the strongest opposition.

With that said, I may not be the only one asking for the old Ronaldo back. The Ronaldo that never used to put himself above the national team. The Ronaldo that would have tears in his eyes when he’d score a goal for his country in a big competition. Not the Ronaldo that walks away shrugging his shoulders after a goal in a sort of way as if to say "did you expect anything less?" That’s not the Ronaldo that the Portuguese people want to see.

What is your opinion on this situation?

Be sure to follow me on twitter: @mylove4thegame


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