What Do You Do With a Boy Like Ronaldo?
It’s sad to say this because Ronaldo has given football fans so many memorable moments on the pitch, but the success has always been about him. I can’t help thinking back to Champion’s League nights circa 2003-2009 and Irish RTE football pundits, United legend Liam Brady, Leeds’ former leg breaker and legend Johnny Giles, and suspected cocaine sniffing, hooker loving sports reporter Eamon Dunphy. When Ronaldo broke onto the scene, his step-overs and constant diving drove them mental; they hated on him after every game for his attitude. They attacked his character like a pack of blood-thirsty dogs during every single show and only when he was banging in 30 goals a season and playing for the team did they reluctantly give him a break and some credit. But they maintained his character was bad. Not a big ego thing because Kean, Cantona and many others had big egos but his character and selfishness. And now those qualities, I believe, have developed into something very difficult for a team to work with—unless the environment is built around him.
It’s 2020, and Ole has a world class player, focal point, and a nice guy in Bruno Fernandez. The team is purring; they’re on a journey, too, #togetherness. Ole is distinctly human compared to the high-functioning machines you get in football nowadays, and a high-functioning football robot might be coming home. United are clueless in the market. I have a hunch word spread around that Juve wanted rid of Ronaldo and United didn’t get the memo. So Pep leaks he’s in for Ronaldo, knowing United will react and buy him, and that’ll undermine Ole’s plans. Sneaky fuck Pep is.
When the GOAT walks into United’s dressing room, players’ legs go weak; they’re star-struck, success in coming. They don’t know how to be normal around him. Having come from throwing boots around Juve’s dressing room when the team loses and calling his team mates shit, the GOAT is not what they expected, and he’s definitely not getting with the program: being human-this is a people’s club. He left United, I think, because talking to dinner ladies was below him. Now he has come back to prove he can drag an average United team back to greatness and with an attitude of ‘be the best or I don’t respect you’. And that’s great, some will respond and some crumble. We saw what that did to the team last year, it divided them and knocked confidence wholesale. He’s the wrong profile for the club yet we’re stuck with him because he can score goals.
Outside of playing for his country, I see a lot of Ronaldo’s ‘be the best’ somewhat as the drive of a malignant narcissist; a quality of being a high-functioning robot that feeds on success, fame and outdoing everyone around him. Football isn’t golf or tennis, it’s a team sport; but for him it’s not about team glory or a club’s history or football in general. For Ronaldo it’s a borderline personality issue that has ballooned. He’s lost in himself and looks lost to me. He’s a victim of his own talent and now his mammoth success. The lad has gone a bit in the head with colossal fame; he’s not quite the Britney Spears of football but underneath he’s on the way. When he retires, he isn’t considering football management, no, the man wants to start a fashion range (his words). A fashion range?! And he accuses players of not being focused or motivated. Humming, ‘And I know that you’re toxic’.
It must be disheartening for young players, and older ones who are less talented than him, to see a football idol acting so petulantly and without class while displaying a lack of humanity (smashing kids’ phones). There’s no #togetherness in him, which there was in abundance with Ole’s team and returning under Ten Hag. I think Rashford is depressed (Ten Hag saying he is smiling in training sort of confirms there was a problem there). Maguire is also depressed, I think clinically, and his serious, game-losing loss of confidence perfectly coincided with Ronaldo’s arrival.
Pre Ten Hag, there was literally rampant (but perhaps transient) depression at United; something very negative transferred from Ronaldo onto the baffling performances we saw on the pitch last season. Besides disrupting United’s shape and patterns of play, simply being on the pitch distracted the team; put all the focus on HIM; ‘Always give the ball to me, I’ll do it’. The players became his minions and stagnated developmentally. They gave up last season, especially so in the last fourteen games where United only won three times. That’s the ageing ‘GOAT Effect’; and why City, I suspect, pretended they were going to buy Ronaldo, and why nobody wanted him this summer.
AND FINALLY, THE IMPENDING CASEMIRO PROBLEM
Like Ronaldo, Casemiro was bought by the club, not the manager. I think he’ll disrupt the team’s psychology, but I suspect Ten is shrewd enough to manage it (unless the club insists he plays him). Ten is a quiet genius who reminds me of Wenger but has the fire and high standards of Fergie to boot. You can tell by how he changes his tact when talking about Ronaldo and Casemiro that he’s not exactly happy about that profile of player being at the club: he shrugs a little, says very little except they are obviously great players. I don’t see the spark in his eye (not even for the GOAT, Ten?!), it says a lot to me.
I sense Ten doesn’t like the commercial side interfering with team affairs, and he’ll sort that with a string of wins—I hope because if the club start saying Ronaldo and Casemiro (who has come for the money) have to play, United won’t be winning trophies. You’ll see results like Thursday night against Real Sociedad more and more when Ronaldo’s in the team (maybe not so much Casemiro as he’s more of a sweeper-upper).
Ronldo needs to go, and I mean go and start his fashion line. Leave Ten to build a team!