Through Gritted Teeth #17: Cristiano Ronaldo

June 6, 2011 § 12 Comments

Cristiano Ronaldo, radiating modesty

by Hayley Wright

I loathe Manchester United. What could be more loathsome than a club managed by the most odious, hypocritical and manipulative man in football? A club whose fair-weather, glory-hunting supporters only dare to creep out of their Guildford postcodes when there’s yet another controversial victory to gloat about. A club that seems to have the uncanny knack of collecting and breeding players who psychologists believe to be “The most arrogant, whingeing, belligerent tossers in the sporting world” (The Lancet)*. Considering this sensitive issue very carefully, how exactly is it that I came to be an admirer of one of the aforementioned tossers? Thus going extremely self-consciously against every fibre of my being.

At this juncture I should probably confess that my life-long allegiance has been with Arsenal and subsequently my ardent dislike for almost anyone and anything to do with the Mancs is heavily supplemented by an amalgam of bias and bitterness. I am afflicted with an all-consuming envy of their recent dominance of the English game. This has particular bite since there was a point at which I somewhat naïvely thought we would commandeer the top spot while they floundered in their bid to win the league over three consecutive years (2004, 2005, 2006). This minor “blip” coincided with our “immaculate” season and the inconvenient rise of “Buy Your Own League Titles” sponsored by Roman Abramovich. However, it also marked the time when a hitherto unfulfilled Portuguese upstart called Cristiano Ronaldo began his ascendancy to footballing greatness.

It is almost incredible to believe that when people referred to “Ronaldo” back in the day, it immediately conjured the image of an overweight, gap-toothed fellow with an implausibly hot girlfriend who did a few impressive things for Brazil. Little did any of us know that United’s king of the step-over and perpetual mocking fodder for Baddiel and Skinner’s inspired “The Adventures of Cristiano Ronaldo” would turn out to be the most influential, expensive and arguably best player in the world, usurping the original into the dusty cobwebs of memory.

Ferguson should take the credit for making Ronaldo play football. Yes, the showboating will always be a part of his game, but Ferguson made him realise that it should be a means to an end rather than a mere selfish exercise in vanity. Over a period of four seasons, Ronaldo perfected that much coveted but rare art of combining a sublime touch and terrifying pace on the wing with a consistently deadly strike rate in front of goal. At his best, the man is an aesthetic, two-footed phenomenon, equally able to head the ball as he is to deliver a pinpoint cross.

To our detriment, we discovered the true nature of his fully rounded game as it was lucidly exhibited during the Champions League 2009 semi-final. A blistering run to square a flawless ball into Park, an expertly placed free-kick from distance, and an exquisite back heel that would start the famous break away culminating with Ronaldo finishing the move that he started by smashing Rooney’s pass round a flailing Almunia. Having momentarily wrestled with the sheer brilliance of the manoeuvre and the heartbreaking significance of the goal, I stood up and sombrely applauded, braced for the abuse from the Emirates west stand which never came. My fellow Gooners were shocked into inertia. And there he stood. Arms outstretched, head nodding. A wry smile on his smug face.

I think it is fair to say that if I were to take a straw poll of English football supporters, they would unanimously agree that Ronaldo is the epitome of the description, “a bit of a cock”. This is facilitated in part by the notorious wink and the occasional dive, but ultimately because one expects a degree of humility from one’s heroes. It is an unusual occurrence in my sporting psyche for someone who is not viewed externally as being an upstanding moral citizen of the game to transcend the enemy boundary and win my admiration. I know what you’re thinking, and the answer’s no; I couldn’t even have angry sex with him. But if Ronaldo’s crime is being exceptionally talented and knowing it, then it’s something I am able to conveniently forget — in a similar fashion to how one forgets that The Pope is a bit of a Nazi, or that Winona Ryder is a bit of a thief.

Therefore, this is admiration of skill in its purest form. My interest was solely in what this man could do on the pitch and it stirred something deep within — more specifically, a heady conflation of excitement and anguish that left my stomach in knots. The propensity to shout “FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK!!!” every time the ball rolled towards him must have echoed in the minds of both the inexperienced and veteran defenders who were continually left for dead. And yet that same masochistic curiosity would always be there. What is he going to do next? As it turns out, what he did was to win every possible accolade and every available title before nipping off to break some records in Madrid. I don’t need my Gooner sense to tell me that we’re better off without Ronaldo in opposition, but at the same time it is abundantly clear that the Premier League is richer for having known him and far less exhilarating since he left.

* This may not have actually been published in The Lancet.


Hayley, when not swearing at perfectly innocent Portuguese people, bakes brownies of sorcerous power and oversees Transsexual Transylvania, a rather wonderful cinema blog. She also reviews film for City AM, writes about football for at Gingers for Limpar, and can be found on Twitter here: @HayleyWright.



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§ 12 Responses to Through Gritted Teeth #17: Cristiano Ronaldo

  • Joss Bennett says:


    Really enjoyed that, Hayley and I completely agree. Ronaldo was scarily good. I hated him in a United shirt (as you say, they’re all tossers and they’re all either having affairs or hair transplants — or both) but the propensity to glare in admiration at the TV screen, mouth wide open and chin by my feet when he puts on a R. Madrid shirt and takes one of his free-kicks or scores the winner against the club I hate (ugh. Fuck it; envy) the most – Barcelona.

    That cheeky wink still pisses me off, though!

  • Anthony says:

    Disappointing coming from someone who obviously loves Football.

    Whilst Ronaldo is an amazing talent, unfortunately like a lot of today’s players, he completely ruins the lot with his total disrespect for the game. I once watched him dive for a penalty, take it, score, then celebrate like he hadn’t done a thing wrong. Not unlike Cantona he plays with an arrogance that is unsurpassed. It’s the cheating, the winning at any cost, the feeling that as long as he gets his match bonus the integrity of the game can go to shit, that ruins his game.

    Can you honestly say Ronaldo is a good role model for today’s young players?

    The recent Barca/Man U game was great to watch, not a dive in sight. It is the likes of Messi who deserves your praise; someone who can take a challenge and isn’t stupid enough to get caught shagging his brothers mrs.

    Like the England player, more concerned about his fucking hair than his performances for his county – Ronaldo deserves to be ignored not put a pedestal above everyone else.

    • Hayley says:

      I think to a certain extent you may have missed the point of this particular article and the series as a whole. This is about someone you like in spite of yourself, someone you wish you didn’t like, and I had hoped that my reservations about Ronaldo had been expressed very clearly.

      As I said… it is purely his talent that I admire (last paragraph). I also never said Ronaldo was a good role model for today’s young players. I could have picked a whole multitude of other players that are less offensive than Ronaldo whom I equally admire, but then this wouldn’t quite work in the context of this series, because those players are easy to like. Everybody likes them. This is the whole point. THROUGH GRITTED TEETH.

    • Joss Bennett says:

      Ah yes – Messi. Messi, who kicked a ball as hard as he could into the Real Madrid supporters when things weren’t going his way, and who kicked a camera as hard as he could at Wembley. Messi – free of sin. Not quite. No diving in the final, yet the only reason Barca got to the final was through diving – Dani Alves did it to get Pepe sent off, Mascherano did it to prevent Madrid from scoring a goal.

      Pretty much every player has “cheated” or dived to win a penalty – it’s not nice, but there’s not a lot of point in singling out one player. As Hayley says, the article is about a player she likes to watch play football – regardless of if he’s shagged someone he shouldn’t have or if he throws himself to the ground a little easily, or if – as Hayley mentions – he gets England’s star player sent off and has the cheek to wink at the bench. He’s a superb footballer, I don’t think there’s much to argue about there.

  • Anthony says:

    Yep fair enough, did miss the point a bit and Barca’s advance to the final was aided by cheating. I just can’t understand ‘proper’ supporters like yourselves putting up with the crap that is instilled into today’s game. I don’t understand how there aren’t post game investigations from missed cheating incidents, how there isn’t cries of abuse from fans at their own players when they feign an injury.

    FIFA endorse a video game where diving is possible!

    It’s not half the game I grew up playing and watching but people seem to put up with it.

    Obviously the wrong forum for this moan, apologies.

    • Joss Bennett says:

      Hayley isn’t saying she’s “putting up” with anything. Quite the opposite – this article (and I assume the whole series) is about putting aside personal antagonisms towards players and talking about what they do best – play football. She – sorry, The Lancet – says he is [one of] “The most arrogant, whingeing, belligerent tossers in the sporting world”.

      It just so happens he’s also rather good at kicking a ball into the back of a net.

    • Scott says:

      I find it odd that this is the game you “grew up playing and watching” yet you don’t understand the futility behind crying for FIFA to instigate the usage of post-match video evidence to handle diving. Did no one explain to you that the governing bodies have no jurisdiction over any incident that the main referee handled in-game? If the player dove and was awarded something by the referee (if they weren’t, there’s really nothing to complain about other than a lack of sportsmanship, and if we were to punish that, nearly all players would be in trouble), no one has the authority to administer post-match penalties.

      Diving is just something that is next to impossible to weed out under the current system just like how cheating is surely inevitable no matter what. If fairness and equality were so easy to achieve as you make it seem, capitalism probably never would have overtaken and surpassed communism in the world history books.

  • Anthony says:

    Thanks for clearing that up Scott. If not FIFA, who would be responsible for bringing the said video evidence into play?

    Look, my initial point was that no matter how good Ronaldo is at controlling, passing etc I don’t believe it’s right to call him a great footballer. I certainly don’t believe The Premiership has somehow gained something from having him as a player; I believe professional sports people should be punished for cheating or bringing the sport into disrepute. Luke Donald wouldn’t be world number 1 if he dropped golf balls through his pockets.

    I’m not saying fairness and equality is easy to achieve. I just think that the more players like Ronaldo get away with it, the more the game – be it at grass roots or on the world stage – is going to suffer.

  • Tom says:

    My favourite “Through Gritted Teeth” of the bunch so far. A very nicely written article Hayley.
    I totally agree with the sunject too. What a wanker, but what a player! I do it’s a particularly British trait to humble one’s own achievements, to defer to the team effort.
    Perhaps that’s why he’s so reviled and revered. You don’t see players like Ronaldo often, and to have someone who brags about their achievements then goes out and take it all to an even highewr level is truely special.

  • Ceiron says:

    I agree with this article muchly! Ronaldo may be idolised by many people over this world , and he knows it but my gosh is this man an amazing footballer. No matter how arrogant or how vain he is , he is a truely gifted footballer but the only down side to his truely amazing feet is that we was blessed with good looks which means he has even more thing to gloat about on top of being one of the best footballers at the moment ( still behind Messi in my opinion! ) But i do agree we where lucky to watch him play in our league for aslong as he did

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