Ronaldo will moan but he will also win the cup
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
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