Football/Soccer

Ronaldo: Narcissistic, arrogant, selfish - and indisputably great

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Champions League semi-final first leg against Atletico Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid

CRISTIANO Ronaldo is a selfish, arrogant, narcissistic footballer. He often frustrates his team-mates at Real Madrid.

There are better role models for kids out there than the 32-year-old Portuguese.

He’s also a great player who would have flourished in any era.

The first time I saw Ronaldo 'live' was at the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany. Portugal were playing Iran in a group game where a win guaranteed them a place in the knock-out phase.

Ronaldo was 21-years-old and a big deal even then.

The great Luis Figo was a declining force at those finals and, with great reluctance, was handing over the mantle to the young pretender as the country's best player.

In '06, Ronaldo was far from the finished article.

It was a time when the vast majority of his step-overs confused him more than they did defenders.

In games, he would become lost in his own self-indulgent show, oblivious to his environment and the favourable positions of his team-mates.

That afternoon in Frankfurt, Ronaldo delivered a typical Ronaldo performance.

Capable of doing something sublime one minute, and losing possession with scant regard the next.

I would hazard a guess that Ronaldo lost possession more than any other player against Iran.

Every time he did, the big screen would show his manager Luiz Felipe Scolari throwing his arms in the air in utter dismay.

If it were anyone else - even Figo - that player would have been substituted in the early throes of the second half.

But it was Ronaldo.

Who would be foolish enough to substitute a potential match-winner in a crucial World Cup game?

He might have frustrated the life out of his manager but there was no chance of Ronaldo’s number being held up.

Deco put Portugal in front after 63 minutes and when the side were awarded a penalty in the 80th minute to seal the win, and book their place in the second round, nobody was taking the ball off Ronaldo.

He duly despatched the spot-kick and Scolari jumped for joy on the sidelines.

There are many flaws in Ronaldo’s overall game in the years since 2006 – some he’s addressed and some he hasn’t – but his greatest strength is unquestionably his mental toughness.

He possesses a self-confidence that is bordering on being bullet proof.

If he misses three successive chances – which is a rare thing – he will do everything in his power to create another one.

He will not hide and will not shy away from his responsibilities that he's only too glad to shoulder.

And he doesn’t fear ridicule – even when Real Madrid fans have senselessly booed their star player this season.

Ronaldo is impossible to intimidate. He will keep coming back.

City rivals Atletico Madrid have boasted arguably the toughest, most uncompromising defence in world football since Diego Simeone took charge - and yet they can't quell Ronaldo, illustrated so eloquently with his hat-trick against them in Tuesday night’s first leg of their Champions League semi-final.

On the surface, it seems a contradiction to attach greatness to a player who is often not a good team player and obsessed with his own goal stats than Real Madrid’s.

Last October, Ronaldo spurned two glorious goal chances against Athletic Bilbao at the Bernabeu – one in each half - when there were team-mates in better positions.

A simple pass would have turned those two chances into goals.

Alvaro Morata signalled his displeasure for the first chance, while Isco and Karim Benzema were dismayed by their team-mate’s decision to go for goal from a tight angle rather than provide the simple pass to either of them.

If mental toughness is Ronaldo's greatest strength, his greatest weakness is not giving the simple pass.

He stands over every free-kick Madrid receive around the opposition’s goal, but his conversion rate is poor.

He shoots from insanely ambitious angles and distances – but yet he’s a great player because there are so many other times when he produces special moments in big games.

One thing that has plagued Ronaldo throughout his career has been the comparisons with Lionel Messi.

It’s a patently unfair one.

The two players may have scored seven hat-tricks apiece in Champions League football but the comparisons should really stop there, because it’s impossible for Ronaldo to reach the levels set by the little Argentine.

No matter how many times football experts try to break down their respective goal stats in a bid to attach some abstract criteria to determine who's the best, it will forever remain a no contest.

To be second to Messi, the greatest player that’s ever lived, is no mean feat.

Ronaldo is a great player in his own right.

A big-game player.

A brilliant header of the ball.

A scorer of great goals and simple goals.

A brave player.

Someone who never knows when they're beaten.

A player of serious longevity.

A player with indestructible confidence and self-belief who fully merits his four Ballon d'Or awards.

He may conjure the image of the individual being king in a team sport.

He may pout.

He may even ice his face for post-match interviews to give off a radiant shine.

He may not give the simple pass often enough.

He is selfish, narcissistic and arrogant.

But greatness comes in different guises.

Tuesday night was another glorious reminder of Ronaldo's lofty standing in the world game.

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