After winning the fourth Ballon d’Or of his illustrious career, Cristiano Ronaldo has regained his crown as the best footballer on the planet. The award pushes him ahead of the three-times winners Marco van Basten, Michel Platini and the late Johan Cruyff.
Arguably, Ronaldo’s achievements at club level were nothing less than we expected given the high standards set by himself and his club, Real Madrid.
A champions league win over rivals Atlético was followed by a European Super Cup and the Club World Cup trophy. As usual, Ronaldo had a huge role to play, scoring 16 goals in the Champions League (one short of the record he himself set in 2014) as well as the decisive penalty kick in the shootout of the final itself. This was also followed by a hat-trick in the Club World Cup final, earning him the Golden Ball for the tournament.
Of course, despite these phenomenal achievements, what makes 2016 so special for Ronaldo was his unexpected triumph on the international stage. Arguably his greatest feat as a footballer, CR7 was able to lead a mediocre Portuguese side to the nation’s first every taste of European glory. Despite receiving unprecedented personal criticism at an international tournament, Ronaldo did what he does best, silencing his critics with three goals and three assists including a crucial header in the semi- final win against Wales. Scandalously, however, Ronaldo was then criticised for his ‘antics’ in the final.
After just 25 minutes of football, Ronaldo was substituted in the final due to a left knee injury. Despite receiving treatment and attempting to continue to play on two separate occasions, Cristiano finally gave in as he broken down in tears—inconsolable, despite the efforts to comfort him. After being stretchered off, Ronaldo reemerged at the dug out to support his team from the side-lines. Although this seemed like the right thing to do, it appeared to be very controversial.
Critics claimed his public display of emotion was all an act to divert the attention back towards himself. Shame on a man (who people are conveniently forgetting was the captain) for going to each player and pumping them up before the biggest 30 minutes of their entire lives. I can only imagine the outrage if he had stayed in the dressing room getting treatment. No doubt this, too, would have been turned into criticism: “Ronaldo obviously doesn’t care now that he is ruled out.” He just cannot win with the media. I can’t help but think that if Rooney had shown the same emotions, he would have been hailed as a hero and even given a knighthood.
The truth is, even defending him in this piece is a sad reflection on football and its critics. We hold Ronaldo to different standards. Yes, his chiseled body and glamorous lifestyle may make him an easy target, but this should not mask Ronaldo’s extraordinary career success. Clearly, talent like his is a rarity, and so we should appreciate it before he soon retires and we begin to feel nostalgic over the days of Cristiano and his footballing genius.