Ron­aldo will moan but he will also win the cup

The Herald - Herald Sport - - FRONT PAGE - ON MON­DAY Matthew Lind­say

IHAVE only once been in Ron­aldo’s com­pany. I was in a cor­ri­dor at Old Traf­ford with Sir Bobby Charl­ton. That bang you just heard was not a sonic boom but the drop­ping of very large names. Can’t re­mem­ber too much of what was said though I be­lieve Ron­aldo re­calls the meet­ing to this day, re­liv­ing his fear of be­ing over­come by the strong smell of TCP “em­a­nat­ing from the scary Scotch guy”.

He was in per­son, though, pre­dictably hand­some and per­fectly po­lite. I be­lieve he was then the best player in the world. My opin­ion has not changed. There is an ar­gu­ment to be had but, in my ex­pe­ri­ence, these are point­less. If Messi’s yir man, great. As the late, great Bob Crampsey said in dis­putes about the su­pe­ri­or­ity of ei­ther Matthews or Fin­ney, once it gets to that level it is all sub­jec­tive.

But if the pre­cise stature of Ron­aldo is not a mat­ter of gen­eral agree­ment, then any­one who has played fitba’ will recog­nise his char­ac­ter and per­son­al­ity. We have all played with some­one who is im­mea­sur­ably bet­ter than the rest of the team and they come in var­i­ous guises.

The Best Player in The Team is ei­ther The Clap­per, The In­do­lent or The Moaner. The Clap­per is best il­lus­trated by Hen­rik Lars­son, a foot­baller lately of this parish. Celtic de­fend­ers would once launch balls to­wards his dis­tant fig­ure with a whoosh rem­i­nis­cent of small mor­tar fire. They would land in­dis­crim­i­nately among fans, thank­fully caus­ing lit­tle col­lat­eral dam­age.

Hen­rik would un­fail­ingly race un­der their arc, stop­ping only when spot­ting the ball land­ing in row ZZ. In­stead of ask­ing his team-mate what the ball had done to an­noy him so, Hen­rik would lift his hands over his head and clap.

There was, ap­par­ently, no irony in this. He seemed pleased that the de­fender should have con­sid­ered his pres­ence and ex­horted him to do so again. He was, thus, an en­cour­ager. I once played with a mid­fielder of ex­tra­or­di­nary tech­nique and in­ven­tive pass­ing whose only faults were those off the field. Un­for­tu­nately, these fal­li­bil­i­ties ended his as­so­ci­a­tion with Rangers as a school­boy and has­tened his in­tro­duc­tion to the am­a­teur leagues. He took the un­com­pro­mis­ing stance that if he could not play for Rangers then he was not go­ing to play pro­fes­sional foot­ball for any­one else.

He there­fore was the shin­ing light in a team of rough di­a­monds. He was also gen­er­ous in his praise. Play­ing with him was like doo­dling with Pi­casso and com­ing up with stick fig­ures of your mum and dad and a gaudily yel­low de­pic­tion of the sun with a face on it. And the ge­nius then prais­ing you for your prim­i­tive re­al­ism. Davie seemed just pleased you man­aged to put your boots on the right feet and gen­er­ally kicked in the right di­rec­tion.

He once twisted his way past the bru­tal lunges of three psy­chopaths be­fore deftly dig­ging the ball out on the touch­line and leav­ing me with an open goal. From a po­si­tion on the goal line, I de­fied ex­pec­ta­tion and, in­deed, all no­tions of the rou­tinely pos­si­ble by blooter­ing the ball over the bar. “Nae luck, Shug,” he roared as he ex­tri­cated his right leg from the side­line whence it had been dis­patched by an overzeal­ous de­fender. I al­most wept in re­pen­tance.

Then there is The In­do­lent. He is the guy who would not run if some­body shouted: “Don­ald Trump is com­ing!” He is the player who has all the ur­gency of a sloth on ke­tamine. His ar­ro­gance is ex­pressed by that lazy sneer that sug­gests every­one else is not wor­thy. He usu­ally ends his am­a­teur ca­reer by los­ing a brisk ar­gu­ment and re­al­is­ing that the game is up when team-mates are stick­ing the head on you.

Then there is The Moaner. Geez, I played with a guy who would have com­plained about find­ing Kylie naked in a bed of spare ribs with bar­be­cue sauce. He once missed a chance when clear through to score the win­ning goal in a cup fi­nal. He met this fail­ure with the ob­ser­va­tion that the pass had been “to his wrong foot”. He has sub­se­quently found a ful­fill­ing ca­reer as a ScotRail an­nouncer.

Ron­aldo is the acme of The Moaner. I once watched him in the Bern­abeu give a series of fre­netic hand sig­nals that con­fused his team-mates but did fa­cil­i­tate the park­ing of a Jumbo jet in the club car park. He is at his petu­lant, pout­ing best when a col­league does not pass to him. He serves the most en­er­getic dis­plays of frus­tra­tion when the cul­prit is Gareth Bale, not the best player in the world, just one who is ex­traor­di­nar­ily, ex­trav­a­gantly tal­ented.

There will be much to grab the at­ten­tion in tonight’s Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal be­tween Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid but I will keep my peep­ers peeled for those mo­ments when Ron­aldo is peeved by per­ceived in­com­pe­tence and re­acts as if he has just been tar­geted by a Taser. His face will con­tort, his body will con­vulse.

But it will be over in a mat­ter of a sec­ond. The Moaner will re­vert to be­ing The Ge­nius. It is why his team­mates re­spect him and the op­po­si­tion fear him. There seems no an­swer to his com­plaints and no de­fence against his gifts. Though, I have sent Atletico a bar­rel of TCP.

Then there is The Moaner. Geez, I played with a guy who would have com­plained about find­ing Kylie in a bed of spare ribs with bar­be­cue sauce

THE GREAT PER­FEC­TION­IST: Cris­tiano Ron­aldo lets his team-mates know what he thinks of their ef­forts

Sports Fea­ture Writer of the Year

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