- The Washington Times - Friday, June 12, 2009

LONDON (AP) - So what will Real Madrid be getting for more than $130 million? Cristiano Ronaldo’s mesmerizing ball skills are unquestionable, while the Portugal winger’s goal-scoring exploits could fill a DVD boxed set.

Having helped Manchester United win the English Premier League and European Champions League with his dribbling ability, lethal shots, aerial power and free kicks, Ronaldo should help Madrid in its bid to topple Barcelona from the summit of European soccer.

But what Madrid also takes on is the baggage United gladly sheds. Last season was marked by on-field tantrums and boasts of his own importance to a team that won its third consecutive Premier League title.

He still produced the individual flashes of brilliance when required _ such as the spectacular goal at Porto that took United into the Champions League semifinals _ but at other times he did little to assist his teammates.

An example of his petulance came in the derby against Manchester City last month when he was ordered off the field after an hour to rest for the next match in the title chase.

Ronaldo walked to the bench, snatched at his tracksuit top and, once sitting down, shook his head several times. Within 15 minutes of the final whistle, he drove away from Old Trafford without waiting to celebrate the victory with his teammates. Still, though, he was defended by manager Alex Ferguson.

The 24-year-old’s choice of words sometimes helped the case for critics who depict him as hugely talented but arrogant.

“People only criticize the best, so what else can I say?” he said after winning the FIFA player of the year award for 2008.

That year marked not only the completion of a 42-goal season but also of his first serious interest in joining Madrid.

Madrid’s approach was flatly rebuffed by Ferguson, and the veteran manager wrapped a protective shield around Ronaldo.

Yet the fans chanted “Viva Ronaldo” with far less gusto last season, rarely believing the persistent declarations of loyalty to the club that helped him become the world’s best player after the precocious talent was signed away from Sporting Lisbon in 2003.

A turning point came on May 27, when United lost the Champions League final 2-0 to Barcelona, a match in which he was upstaged by Argentina’s Lionel Messi.

In the pre-match broadcast he dismissed talk of leaving _ only to say in the players’ tunnel after the loss that he wasn’t sure if he would be at United next season.

A player idolized by United fans at his peak will probably divide opinion among supporters when he leaves. For some, he will be the man who brought the club great success; for others, he will be someone who toyed with their adulation before leaving for a higher salary.

Within the club itself, there is an acceptance that he deserved the move to Spain. Ronaldo had supported Real Madrid as a youngster and craves to be near his homeland in Madeira.

Ferguson, who never allows any player to undermine his authority, can claim a victory in forcing Ronaldo to stay in last year’s offseason.

And what keeps him going at 67 is unearthing young talents like Ronaldo and breeding them into world-class players. From his holiday home in the south of France, Ferguson will already be thinking about who will inherit Ronaldo’s mantle.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide