The Portuguese superstar has been let go by Manchester United. With his club’s future uncertain, this World Cup is crucial to the end game of his career.
The most famous person in this World Cup is aging rapidly, caught up in the nightly news and currently unemployed.
It’s a tough time being Cristiano Ronaldo.
In the most turbulent few months of his 20-year career, the Portuguese superstar has violently reevaluated his position in the game after an emotional homecoming at Manchester United turned into a workplace nightmare. The long-awaited conclusion came on Tuesday evening after the club called him “by mutual consent”.
Becoming the first person to reach 500 million followers on Instagram this week wasn’t much consolation — not when the world’s most famous club publicly disliked you.
But there is one thing Ronaldo can always count on to encourage. And here, 65 minutes into his opening game in Qatar, came the pick-me-up he so longed for. With a penalty kick in the second half giving Portugal a 3-2 win against Ghana, Ronaldo was back on the scoresheet, back in the history books and in the spotlight of the most watched sporting event in the world.
The goal made him the first player to score in five consecutive World Cups and eased some of the tension within the Portugal national team, which had previously been a haven where Ronaldo could do no wrong. When he came to the tournament, his compatriots seemed to revere him a little less than before. Manager Fernando Santos, who coached the team at Euro 2016 and cried with Ronaldo when they won, suggested here that his number 7 was not an automatic starter. And midfielder Bruno Fernandes, now Ronaldo’s former Man United teammate, gave him a warm welcome to the dressing room last week
“I don’t feel uncomfortable. I don’t have to choose sides.” “Playing with Cristiano was a dream come true, but nothing lasts forever.”
Ronaldo’s sudden change of circumstances has shed new light on his fifth and final World Cup appearance. Alongside Portugal’s fortunes in this tournament and his own quest to lift a bigger trophy than any other now marks what could be his best chance to turn the page in what will soon be his illustrious career. is becoming. A disappointing end to his career.
Ronaldo has not said where he plans to play after the World Cup and it’s unclear how many clubs can afford to pay his salary – or even want the chance.
Before Thursday, Ronaldo hadn’t kicked a ball in a professional game in 18 days, which isn’t to say he hasn’t been busy. During that period, he sat down for an explosive interview with British broadcaster Piers Morgan, burned his bridges in the UK, started selling his own NFTs, and launched a $140,000 watch. None of this helped answer the central question about Ronaldo at 37: can he still pull it off in the most important games?
From a football perspective, Ronaldo is not yet ready to be put out to pasture. Last season, he was United’s top scorer in the Premier League with 18 goals. This year he made just eight 90-minute appearances for Man United, but still scored three goals and two assists.
But in the twilight of his career, the man whose chiseled physique and immense confidence reshaped football for two decades had to watch the game slip away from its strengths.
Ronaldo remains a clinical finisher when fit – although he missed two excellent chances against Ghana in the first half – but modern managers appreciate attackers who are more mobile, push opponents down the field and score more often through lost possession. create opportunities.
The more old-fashioned Ronaldo, notable for his longevity, has hung around long enough to be a dinosaur.
“Press printing is now completely universal,” said Arsène Wenger, head of FIFA’s Technical Study Group.
United thinks so too. While manager Erik ten Haag tries to impose an energetic style on the club, he has no need for a superstar who quickly runs out of energy.
Portugal has few options. As long as the country’s football idol can put on his football boots, the team is determined to build around him. After all, the arrival of Ronaldo in the team was a BC/AD moment for Portuguese football. Before him, it had only qualified for three of the 17 World Cups. But since the start of their major tournaments in 2004, the country of 10 million has never missed a European Championship or a World Cup.
And when the team won its first major title at Euro 2016, Ronaldo was much more than Portugal’s best player. He was also the talisman.
Six years later, Portugal wonders what life after Cristiano could be like. There’s an even more intriguing period to discuss first: Ronaldo’s transformation from soccer god to 37-year-old mortal. The team has said the right things, at least publicly.
As always, Ronaldo proves impossible to ignore.
“If they talk about it when they’re alone in their room, I don’t know,” Santos said. “I mean, the players have time to themselves to do what they want. The most important thing now is that the players are fully focused with a great spirit.”
-Wall Street Journal