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Cristiano Ronaldo’s anti-herd will

By Tony Afejuku
30 December 2022   |   3:00 am
The Qatar FIFA World Cup that has just ended has forced me to be measuring and re-measuring my football mind. This is causing me a perplexing problem birthing perplexing problems. As is well known in the football world, Europe is the dominant continent where stars, super-stars and would-be stars run to from time to time…

Manchester United’s Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo reacts as they go two goal behind during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on October 24, 2021. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. /

The Qatar FIFA World Cup that has just ended has forced me to be measuring and re-measuring my football mind. This is causing me a perplexing problem birthing perplexing problems. As is well known in the football world, Europe is the dominant continent where stars, super-stars and would-be stars run to from time to time from other continents to prove their football mettle and intelligence that would enable them to make breath-taking money without qualms. European players of real worth rarely leap out of Europe to chase football fame and its attendant cash in other continents. Of course, Europe is the most developed and richest football continent. In every respect it is the octopus of world football – a feat that eludes the other continents whose football infrastructure and wealth are carefully and carelessly far inferior to Europe’s.

One cannot but be mesmerised, given the above scenario, that a global supreme super-star called Cristiano and Ronaldo, is heading to the Middle East, specifically to Saudi Arabia to carry on his footballing career – after his forced departure from Manchester United, the English top club that was the Portuguese theatre of dreams at the early stage of his shots of glory where and when up to now he started scoring healing goals. We know the open reason why the icon and legend of Portugal left Manchester United in a startlingly strange manner. The interview, which he granted Piers Morgan, was intelligently parrotry and had venom like a snake. His head coach, club owners, some fans and sundry persons and busybodies found the interview negatively intriguing.

Personally, I found the interview as that of a football demi-god whose coach/manager did not treat fairly and did not show sufficient respect. I don’t wish to go into the full details of what transpired between the football super-star of staggering gifts and his head coach on the one hand, and the club’s owners and management team on the other hand. But Ronaldo whose football accomplishments would continue to command attention was right with respect to the issues he raised relating, for instance, to the club’s infrastructural decay – even though his timing was out of joint.

The recreational facilities and the basic structure of the club were still as they were when he left Manchester United many years ago. The very teeth of Ronaldo’s heroically un-exaggerated criticism were meant by him to be seen or to be considered as a positive contribution to his envisaged economic, commercial, technical, human and creative growth of the club. Yet, paradoxically, his quest reached its culmination in his sensational emotional entanglement with the Red Devils’ manager/head coach who was in a crucial battle of egos with the Portuguese football super-icon of restless football intelligence. Ronaldo’s crucial experience would perhaps be best understood against the background of manager Erik ten Hag’s attempts to demean his emotional and professional life in general through belittling substitutions of him or not outright playing him in his starting line-up even when Ronaldo was as fit as a fiddle.

He did not understand Ronaldo as a footballer of deep football intellect who was not and would never be ready to play second fiddle to anyone or any player especially one beneath him in stardom or super-stardom. Cristiano Ronaldo is not one to succumb to the herd mentality. His will is the anti-herd will. He does not follow the crowd or herd or bandwagon to say his say or to do what he must to develop his self-sustaining discipline or self-discipline relating to his career that has witnessed deliberate media controversy orchestrated by his detractors in support of his presumed rivals in other local clubs and countries.

While at Juventus in Italy he was the glorious super-star as he equally was at Real Madrid. But almost every hiccup Juventus had in the field of play was blamed on him despite his being their poster-player and scorer of aesthetic goals as he did wondrously at Madrid as well. In the two seasons he was there at Juventus he was the club’s highest goal scorer and without doubt their best player. Indeed, in his second season he was the best and highest goal scorer in Serie A – yet he was hounded, so to say, out of Italy.

When he landed in Manchester United for his second spell in 2021 after his erstwhile Manchester United manager/head coach Alex Ferguson whom he revered (and still revers) ambushed and hijacked him en route Manchester City FC, he also topped the Red Devils’ goal-chart. Of course, he was un-impressed with the team’s quality of players and play. He said so a number of times and regretted his second coming to the club despite the reverence and affection the fans gave him. His days and time there were obviously numbered. But did the legend that up to now has been creating and breaking records care? Did the anti-herd-willed Ronaldo give a damn? A capital and emphatic NO is the answer. His team-mates were silent about his revelations – yet now his former team-mates are now the beneficiaries of his heroic outspokenness as the club’s owners and management are currently addressing the concerns he mirrored to the world.

Now to blackmail our charming Ronaldo, our pride of the anti-herd mentality and will, the pro-Messi media especially and anti-Ronaldo pundits and coaches of other clubs and climes have been citing what they want us to believe against the grain as his physical and psychological wound while he was at Juventus. Can anyone claim that Juventus have been better since Ronaldo scornfully left the Serie A giants? Who are they in delight conjuring up contempt for now? Furthermore, since Morocco eliminated Portugal in the Qatar FIFA World Cup quarters by a solitary goal coaches and pundits have taken up a bitter stand and stance against Ronaldo. The Italian coaching gem Fabio Capello, at different times Manager at Real Madrid, Juventus and England’s national team the Three Lions, has called Ronaldo, Portugal’s greatest ever player, “cumbersome” and “arrogant” essentially because of Ronaldo’s faith in his anti-herd will and mentality.

The Scottish former player and coach Graeme Souness, former Liverpool (of England), Rangers (of Scotland), Benfica (of Portugal) and Galatasaray (of Turkey) manager at different coaching spells, seems to share Capello’s unsympathetic sentiment. But they as well as Fernado Santos, Portugal’s head coach and manager, who left out Ronaldo from his starting line-up on two occasions at the World Cup were wrong (and are still wrong). Unsurprisingly, he has since been rightly fired by the Portuguese Football Federation for his psychological damage to Ronaldo’s energy and spirit in the crucial quarters against Morocco whom he introduced in the final thirty minutes after the harm against the super-veteran’s team had been done.

Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, gave us recently an insight into what has been befalling Ronaldo – especially what befell him in Qatar. The Turkish President said “Ronaldo was under political ban in Qatar” for his alleged support for Palestine” meaning that Ronaldo was “Punished” for his anti-herd will and freedom of political speech in support for Palestinian Arabs against Israel. If this is true we now know four things: one, Ronaldo is a political activist, rightly or wrongly, of political freedom for the oppressed; two, why Ronaldo is now no longer enjoying a good press; three, why Ronaldo is not finding another top club in Europe; four, why Ronaldo is now heading to Saudi Arabia where he is going to enjoy hefty pay for voicing what he has voiced on behalf of the Arab world.

Whatever the case, Ronaldo’s time in Saudi Arabia is going to be intriguingly momentous. He will hit it big at al-Nasser. And the psychological pain he has suffered and endured will disappear. If he is still fit in four years’ time he will appear in his final World Cup in the US. Who knows what the gods may fetch him there? Who truly knows?
Happy New Year.
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.