There’s no doubt that Cristiano Ronaldo is one if the greatest footballers the world has ever seen, but after starring in a new film about himself, it has never been clearer that his ego is just as big as his talent.
At 30 years old, he’s broken pretty much every record there is to break. Most recently, Ronaldo became Real Madrid’s all time top scorer with 326 goals for Madrid at the time of writing, eclipsing Raul’s previous record of 323. Remarkably, Ronaldo only needed 308 games to do this – less than half of Raul’s 741. He also holds the record for most hat tricks for Real Madrid: 34 – smashing Alfredo Di Stefano’s previous club record of 28, which had stood for over 50 years. He is one of six Madrid players to score 5 goals in a single game, and he is the only player in La Liga history to score over 25 goals in six different seasons. In the Champions League he holds the records for the most goals in a single campaign (17), as well as being the tournament’s all time leading goal scorer (82). He’s also been named World Player of the Year three times (2008, 2013, 2014).
It is pretty fair to say that the numbers do the talking. Even Cristiano’s harshest critics would find it hard to argue that he is not one of the greatest to grace the game – but there aren’t many. Ronaldo has an enormous international fan base, but it is fairly clear to see that his biggest fan is himself.
In a recent interview with BBC Sport, he was asked about being the most famous footballer in the world. His answer was simple: “all this happens for a reason, the reason is I’m unbelievable inside the pitch… In my mind I am always the best, I don’t care what the people are thinking.” While it is clear that his ego is monumental, is there more to him than that? He acknowledges that people may not agree with him, and many don’t – ‘arch-nemesis’ Lionel Messi has won one more World Player of the Year award than Ronaldo – but his drive, and belief that he is the best, is clear to see – and that may be his secret to success.
Ronaldo has not always enjoyed a glamorous lifestyle: an unwanted child, his mother tried, and failed, to abort him when she was pregnant. He grew up in Madeira, but moved 600 miles away to join the Sporting Lisbon youth academy when he was just 12 years old. If that wasn’t tough enough, his father, a veteran of the Portuguese Colonial War, was an alcoholic, and died of cirrhosis of the liver when his son was only 19 years old. After such a tough childhood, you can hardly blame him for being proud of his great achievements, however, in a sport full of egos and prima donnas, Ronaldo has a reputation for being the worst of the worst.
Perhaps the finest example of this can be found in his home land of Madeira, where, in 2013, he built a museum of himself for the public to enjoy. On display are all of his greatest achievements, starting with a certificate he won when he was eight years old, and spanning all the way through his glittering career to current day. The museum includes a life-size waxwork of the player, and even an empty room “to be filled by future trophies”. The recent documentary about Ronaldo, of course titled Ronaldo, has been described by The Guardian reviewer Wendy Ide as being “as airbrushed and groomed as its subject” – clearly this film may have been made more for Cristiano’s entertainment more than anybody else’s.
While Ronaldo’s achievements place him securely on another planet, he is not alone out there in the cosmos. Lionel Messi – his only true contemporary, arguably of all world footballers ever – is constantly being compared to Ronaldo. Who is better? It’s difficult to say. Ronaldo said himself that comparing him with Messi is like comparing a “Ferrari with a Porsche” – they have different engines, and different things driving them. Messi is small, his style of play is fluid and beautiful. His dribbles are impossible to predict and his centre of gravity is so low trying to push him over is like trying to kick down a greased-up letter box. His style is romantic and his personality is withdrawn – making him perfectly suited for Barcelona and their romantic, team – orientated style of play.
Ronaldo, on the other hand, is a powerhouse. He’s a perfect athlete: he can leap like a salmon and run faster than anyone else on the pitch. He’s a ruthless goal scorer and once you’ve passed him the ball don’t expect to get it back – expect it to end up in the net. He is perfectly suited the Real Madrid’s ‘Galactico’s’ approach: he was the most expensive player in the world when Madrid signed him from Manchester United for £80 million, he is the highest paid footballer in world football, and he is a world renowned global icon. While it is clear to see why people both love and hate him, it cannot be denied for a single second that Cristiano Ronaldo isn’t a living legend. Yes, he does talk the talk, but he’s one of the only players that can match his ego with his performances, and as he moves into his 30’s – a dreaded period for most footballers, it is evident that Ronaldo is nowhere near finished.