Jim White

Ronaldo sympathy in short supply

Jim White

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Poor Cristiano Ronaldo. We can only sympathise with the miserable position he finds himself in. No wonder he's sad. No wonder he needs to go public with his unhappiness. No wonder he refuses to celebrate scoring. Even when the landmark he notched up with his latest effort (150 goals in 149 games for Madrid) would send lesser mortals into ecstasy.

It is not just a matter of money (though obviously £10 million a year these days can barely be described as adequate for a man of his distinction). It is not just a matter of prominence (though being the most noted player in the world's most renowned team might be sufficient for some). It is a matter of respect.

Poor Cristiano. As if playing for a pittance were not enough — he is clearly the best player in the world yet there are several others out there like Samuel Eto'o and Didier Drogba who are earning more than he is; what's that about? - one of his team-mates had the cheek to suggest recently that Iker Casillas should have been crowned FIFA's best player and not Ronaldo.

Now football is obviously a game of opinions. And everyone is entitled to theirs, Cristiano would accept that. But honestly, to claim Casillas ought to be celebrated before him is not an opinion. It is an insult. A horrible defamation. Worse, Cristiano is being insulted every day by this man's presence in the same dressing room.

And what are the hierarchy of the so-called football club he plays for doing about it? Nothing. Even though Cristiano has made it clear by blanking the miscreant, he whose name we cannot repeat here for fear of upsetting the Ronaldo equilibrium (oh all right it is Marcelo) is still on the Madrid pay roll. How disrespectful is that? Who — to quote at length from the Wildean dialogue of Ray Winstone's new Sweeney film — is the mug here?

Oh dear. Such is Ronaldo's belief that he is misunderstood and mal-treated, such is his barnstorming paranoia, such is his insistence that — despite all apparent evidence to the contrary — the world is against him and everyone just wishes to see him fail, there can be but one direction open to him. Yes, it can surely only be a matter of time before he signs for Manchester City. A match made in heaven, him and Carlos and Samir all together in one place, hair triggers at the ready to flounce at the merest hint of a possibility of an insult.

But then, even if City's hierarchy was prepared, resplendent as it is in its newly tailored financial hair shirt, to sanction a purchase which would bust even its extravagant margins, would Roberto Mancini really want the player in his dressing room?

Sure, Ronaldo would bring goals. And plenty of them. But what the Italian is doing at the Etihad is building something coherent and permanent. The last thing he needs is an character as unhinged as Ronaldo's swanning in and disrupting all harmony.

Mancini may have won the battle with Tevez hands down (the player himself admitted last week that the spat with his boss did him the world of good in renewing his appetite and focus). But that does not mean he needs to face down another giant ego. He has to do that often enough as it is in his weekly meetings with Brian Marwood.

So if City might be wary, then where on earth can the poor dispirited Cristiano go? Certainly not back to Manchester United, who are still living off the £80 million they earned from his sale and would not contemplate forking out even more to bring him back.

He could never go to Barcelona, where he would be obliged to play second billing to a system. The Italians simply couldn't afford him, nor would the Germans be keen to disrupt their reputation for financial rectitude by bringing him in. His only hope for even grander reward than he currently enjoys would be in one of the newly flush oligarch-owned clubs out east, in Russia, Ukraine or China. And if he ended up at, say Zenit on £350,000 a week, what then? Would he really feel fulfilled?

When a man finds wearing the white shirt of Madrid somehow underwhelming, when he feels he is being insulted by a wage that could staff an entire hospital for a year, when he moans about respect when half the world worships the very ground he steps upon, you begin to suspect the problem may be less to do with his employer and more to do with him. Poor Cristiano indeed.

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