Monday 23 October 2017

Rachel Wyse: Moyes must wish Ronaldo had listened to Ferdinand's pleas

Madrid phenomenon has proved doubters wrong since brave United exit

Cristiano Ronaldo at last week’s Ballon d’Or ceremony
Cristiano Ronaldo at last week’s Ballon d’Or ceremony

Rachel Wyse

CRISTIANO Ronaldo is a man we all know. The ultimate strutting diva, with endless arrogance and an ego to match his considerable earnings. A man with remarkable talents diminished by his intent to be a flash harry.

Or are such opinions of the newly crowned FIFA Player Of The Year far too short-sighted? Ronaldo has won numerous awards, but I suspect in winning the 2013 Ballon d'Or he may well have changed public perceptions. At the very least the award made a statement to contradict much of the criticism aimed at him since his days at Old Trafford.

Long before he stepped onto a stage in Zurich last Monday, Ronaldo had shown endless glimpses of greatness. His first Ballon d'Or in 2008 was indicative of this but still some were sceptical. In light of the player's feats in 2013, grounds for such scepticism are now less well founded.

Since his move to Madrid the change in Ronaldo's character has been noticeable. He has grown to become a leader. Instead of being daunted by the expectation from becoming the world's most expensive footballer following his £80m move in 2009, Ronaldo relished the limelight. He thrived on the challenge. In a city where football is sacrosanct, lesser men would have buckled under the strain.

In today's world, greatness brings burdens. Expectation, intrusion and considerable pressure are a part of everyday living. For any man or woman to achieve greatness in their field, a temperament to deal with such realities is an absolute prerequisite. No question Ronaldo has it.

In November, when a nation needed someone to be the difference in their World Cup play-off with Sweden, Ronaldo didn't let Portugal or her people down. He delivered when the stakes were greatest.

EXPLOITS

While Portugal are unlikely to be victorious in the summer, a World Cup would have been considerably poorer without the presence of Ronaldo. Genuine stars of the game should be playing on the biggest stage.

Despite his heroics with Portugal, it has largely been his exploits with Real Madrid that have delivered Ronaldo the accolade of world's greatest player in 2013.

When he left Old Trafford, Ronaldo realised a dream. He had been intent on playing in the white of Madrid since he was a young boy. He believed Madrid was his destiny. A place he would flourish and prosper. Even at a young age Ronaldo displayed great self-belief in a vision he possessed for his career.

Leaving Old Trafford can't have been an easy decision. He knew great success in England, he was adored by fans and in Alex Ferguson he had a manager who cared for him as though he was his son. Ferguson recognised the player's potential and did everything within his power to ensure Ronaldo maximised his gifts in the cause of Manchester Untied.

When Ronaldo wanted to leave for Madrid, Ferguson managed to persuade him to remain for one more year. That was the respect Ronaldo had for the former United manager, and even today he refers to Ferguson as 'The Boss'.

Many may have felt intimated leaving the security of an environment where he knew he was protected and loved, but Ronaldo believed in his own capabilities.

His time at Madrid has coincided with arguably the greatest club team in the game's history and Barcelona's excellence has been the primary cause for a relatively poor return in trophies since he joined Real.

His four-and-a-half years at the Bernabeu have yielded just one La Liga, one Copa del Rey and one Spanish Super Cup. But statistics can never tell the full story. Barcelona's dominance has served as a challenge to Ronaldo. Their supremacy irritates the Portuguese star and he has pushed himself to new heights in an effort to propel Madrid to the ascendancy.

Comparisons with Lionel Messi were inevitable, with the two men playing in the same league. Most commentators regard Messi as the best in the world but it says much about Ronaldo's talents and how he has developed when there is even a debate about who reigns supreme. Messi missed the closing months of 2013 with injury but still led Barcelona to another La Liga title and Spanish Super Cup, scoring 45 goals in 46 appearances for club and country along the way.

For Ronaldo to be crowned king in the era of Messi only adds further merit to the achievements. His tears as he accepted the Ballon d'Or from Pele may well indicate Ronaldo had also made the same realisation. To be recognised by your peers as the world's best must be an awesome feeling but when you look to the runner-up seat and see Lionel Messi smiling back, no more claps on the back are necessary.

With due respect to third place Franck Ribery, Messi and Ronaldo are on a different planet to every other player and when people speculated in advance of this year's announcement there was simply an 'either or' choice. Besides Ronaldo and Messi no one else counted.

Some will argue FIFA's meddling in the decision-making process tipped the balance in Ronaldo's favour as initially they ruled all votes had to received by November 15, only for the governing body to then extend the deadline to November 29.

While an extension was controversial, the decision to permit votes already cast to be changed only served to undermine their ruling. Ronaldo's unforgettable display in the play-off games against Sweden, when he scored all four goals for his country, was probably the decisive act in the race to be crowned the game's best.

Such an accolade clearly matters greatly to Ronaldo. Aside from his family, he seem to live for soccer. His dedication to maximising his potential is evident in his incredible physique and conditioning. Perhaps a little unusually for one with so much natural talent, Ronaldo is the ultimate professional.

Such a characteristic doesn't have fans on the edge of their seat or win goal of the season but it is an important quality for those who seek greatness. During the past week, stories emerged how Rio Ferdinand had plagued Ronaldo to return to Old Trafford in the summer. Having scored 69 goals in 60 games in 2013 we can all understand Ferdinand's logic.

Ronaldo is a phenomenon. His scoring statistics are scarcely believable for a player who isn't an out-and-out centre-forward. Everybody knows there is not a single player in the English Premier League to come close to the level at which Ronaldo was operating in 2013. Oh how different David Moyes' landscape might look had Ferdinand's pleas not fallen on deaf ears.

Portugal recently lost their king with the passing of Eusebio. In Zurich his successor was crowned. No longer a boy of tricks and flicks but a man of leadership, belief, marvellous ability and no little end product. We thought we knew you, we were wrong. Take a bow, Cristiano Ronaldo.

Irish Independent

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