It’s impossible to discuss Cristiano Ronaldo as a footballer without putting it into context and comparison with Lionel Messi, which obviously drags the whole Real Madrid and Barcelona issue into it. However, all four are related obviously – both in their footballing fates and in the way the public perceives and presents its opinion on the changing tapestry of European football.
Ronaldo winning the Ballon d’Or made some people cringe and laugh. Someone who has been politicking and using every trick in the book via the media and playing the hurt and insulted little boy in order to get his award from FIFA after four consecutive years of walking away empty handed, watching Lionel Messi lift it like he doesn’t even care doesn’t usually create a lot of empathy, especially when he’s rich and successful.
But people get sick of the same thing. Barcelona and their brand of Tiki-Taka football turned from the trend setter to something tiresome. Neutrals who went with Barcelona for their attractive style and branded Lionel Messi as the humble little magician in comparison to the arrogant Cristiano Ronaldo, the evil Jose Mourinho and the unlikable Real Madrid have turned. Now, Barcelona seem to be the club without the slightest of morals. Ronaldo? He might be still easy to hate for all the diving and reactions on the pitch, but he has been able to erase records and the notion that Lionel Messi is the undisputed best player in the world.
What used to be an argument between Real Madrid fans and the rest of the world has changed. Ronaldo? He’s the same footballer he always was. He is never going to be someone who looks for the pass first or shows exceptional vision. He is a finisher, a striker who plays in wide positions, a killer on the pitch, with more weapons in his arsenal than anyone else in history when it comes to finding the net.
Being this good, this famous, this exposed, will always make him a target for the blame-game after losses. When Ronaldo doesn’t score, he doesn’t do his job. He isn’t a player who defends very well or excels in build up play. He looks lost in most areas of the pitch if he isn’t zooming ahead at lightning speed. he doesn’t work well in the center or when the match is slowed down. He plays for a team that is based on sprinting forward, and anything else makes him look bad.
But personally, he’s beyond caring that much about that. Even without the championship (which probably goes to Atletico this season), no one is calling Real Madrid a failure. No one is mocking Ronaldo, especially now that he has reached his first Champions League final since 2009, finally coming through on a promise he made to himself and Real Madrid fans. Maybe a loss to Atletico Madrid in the final changes all that, but all the signs point to something close to impossible happening: Cristiano Ronaldo becoming almost lovable.