Tuesday 20 August 2019

Arsene Wenger has a pop at "selfish" Ronaldo

Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

On the evidence of Cristiano Ronaldo’s soon to be released self-congratulatory documentary, the desire of the Real Madrid superstar to be known as the best player in the world is more significant than any prize he has won his glittering career.

Being viewed by the wider public as a better player than his long-standing rival Lionel Messi appears to have been the fuel that has fired his burning over the last decade and more, with Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger suggesting Ronaldo's attitude is a tragic byproduct of a modern game that celebrates celebrity and looks down on what really matters in the game.

Winning in the eyes of the longest serving manager in the Premier League can only be quantified by team success, as he argue that FIFA’s annual Ballon d’Or award a sideshow that does not merit the profile it has long attracted.

Ronaldo makes no secret of the fact that his status as World Player of the Year is just as significant to in his mind as the two Champions League prizes he won in 2008 and 2014, which can only be seen as a tragic self-indulgence that puts a stain on his legacy.

“I’ve seen careers destroyed because the players are too much obsessed to get individual rewards,” argued Wenger, as he spoke to an assembled media audience at Arsenal’s London Colney training HQ this morning.

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“I think the modern world is too much about individuals and we as managers are more worried about the collective. I’m not too much of a fan. I’m against the Ballon d’Or, I’m against all these things.

“I feel it encourages selfishness and people inside the game go to too much for their own sake when some partners are in a better position. Even the agents sometimes motivate the players to get individual rewards because they are more valuable on the market after. That’s why I’m against it. I’m not a big fan of it.

“As a manager I always feel responsible to encourage the collective effort rather than singling people out. I would rather win as a team than have one of my players win a personal award. I have seen what these awards can do to people.”

Wenger’s view carries more than a little merit and yet the game has long since become a part of the showbiz business, with awards ceremonies and individual honours all part of the fare when you are promoting a brand and selling your image.

The going rate for an actor goes through the roof when an Oscar nomination comes their way and it seems as if soccer icons like Ronaldo and his high profile agent Jorge Mendes are chasing their relatively insignificant personal prizes with the kind of gusto that barely seems justified.

Will Tiger Woods be remembered for the number of PGA Tour Player of the Year awards he claimed of the number of major titles in his collection? Will Roger Federer be noted down in history as the first player to win the ATP Tour Fair Play award more than anyone else in history, or his 17 Grand Slams titles that singles him out as the best tennis player of them all?

An answer hardly needs to be given to those questions and yet Ronaldo’s petulant reaction to Messi beating him to the Ballon d’Or prize a few years back is one of the more memorable scenes in the documentary that has had the game talking this week, with the star of the show happy to allow his annoyance at coming second to be included in his film.

The scale of Ronaldo’s desperation to steal the limelight was highlighted graphically in the final stages of the 2014 Champions League final, after his Real Madrid team-mates had laid a platform for the club’s elusive tenth victory in Europe’s elite competition on a night when their star player had failed to live up to his billing.

Ronaldo’s 120th minute penalty mattered little in a 4-1 win against a beaten Atletico Madrid side, but ‘CR7’ felt the need to rip of his shirt and make his play to snatch the limelight away from the heroes who had helped him to win him another major medal.

Those who have viewed the Ronaldo documentary and subsequent interview with BT Sport will confirm that this is a sporting superstar whose sublime talents have contributed to his loss of perspective in a game that is in danger of remembering as much for his inflated ego as his brilliance as a footballer.

Make no mistake, Ronaldo deserves to be hailed as one of the greatest footballers the game has ever seen, but there is also an argument that he is the runaway winner in the prize for the biggest and ugliest ego football has ever entertained.

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