Tuesday 2 December ~
So, Cristiano Ronaldo is the best player in the world. Quelle surprise. Of the 96 football writers polled by France Football magazine, 77 put Ronaldo forward as the player most deserving of a shiny gold football on his mantelpiece. Ronaldo, a man who single-handedly won game-upon-game for the team that won the Premier League and Champions League. Ronaldo, a midfielder who scored 42 goals in a season. Ronaldo, a man who has redefined the art of the free-kick and range of tricks that can be used to positive effect in a match. Who could disagree with him claiming the Ballon d’Or? The British press, of course.
Both the Guardian and Times websites have articles that dispute Ronaldo’s right to the crown this morning, citing his poor Euro 2008 and missed penalties in the Champions League. Neither went on to proclaim the best Oasis album to be Standing on the Shoulders of Giants and their favourite Bond to be George Lazenby, but they might as well have for the willful contrariness and selective memory needed to form such an opinions. But then this is often the case with discussion of Ronaldo for some reason.
No player has dominated the English game to the extent of Ronaldo in the two decades since I was conscious of football, that is a simple fact. Yet people still focus on everything that is wrong with him: the occasional ill-discipline, the occasional poor performance, the constantly terrible hair. That is called being human. When Diego Maradona came to Britain a few weeks ago, people fawned over memories of his brilliance and rightly so. Ronaldo is not the player Maradona is, but he is closer than most, so why not enjoy one of the three best footballers of his era while you can rather than sniping at his faults? Because you can bet in 20 years you won’t be hearing people talk about a missed penalty in a shoot-out that his team won anyway.
Of course it could all now go wrong for Ronaldo. The last Premier League player to win the Ballon d’Or? Michael Owen in 2001. A player who today will be reading that Rafael Benitez doesn’t want to sign him in January and may well be spending his time until May fighting against relegation under the orders Joe Kinnear. For all the sniping at Ronaldo, surely even the most contrary of writers cannot imagine he will go anywhere near the same way. Josh Widdicombe