The Madridistas want his goals. The marketing department wants his looks and the shirt sales. The club wants the sponsorship deals, the goal-scoring records, the League titles, and it clings to the idea that he can deliver the Decima. They all want something – but without the add-ons and the clauses.
Ronaldo comes with clauses – and nobody at Real Madrid can pretend they didn’t know about it. Together with the swagger, the arrogance, the petulance and the hair comes the unapologetic and unmasked ambition. It is that ambition that has driven him to constantly improve his game and develop into the brawny athlete and complete footballer who has hit an astonishing 150 goals in 149 games at Real Madrid.
Yet inevitably that ambition, and the demand for the spot light and the glory has its upshot. He is high maintenance, and given his performances many would argue rightly so. Refusing to celebrate his two goals against Granada at the weekend was the first glimpse of what was to come. Barely an hour later he took his protest a step further, saying he was ‘sad’ over a ‘professional issue.’ He says the club knows what he means.
The theories doing the rounds complete a full range from the highly possible to the more improbable – from Ronaldo wanting a new contract, to him not feeling valued at the club, to Real Madrid not supporting him in his failed bid to win the Balon d’or, to Marcelo backing Casillas instead to win that prize, to a fallout with the Spanish sector of the squad, to a full bout of depression. One version has the striker in tears in the changing room for 20 minutes after the match against Granada.
Ronaldo said he was ‘triste’ – sad – while his agent Jorge Mendes said his star striker would be able to count on his ‘solidarity’. If this really is the start of negotiations to improve on his multi-million euro contract, it is strong – and ill-advised – language given the economic climate in which some Spaniards are looting supermarkets in order to be able just to eat.
The Press reaction, meanwhile, ranged from weak puns – ‘Tristiano Ronaldo’ – to jibes – 'he's like a girl on his period/the princess is sad' – and will drag on until some light is shed on the matter. Teammates – Ricardo Kaka, Arvalo Arbeloa – made public shows of support in the face of the talk of squad disharmony, while record-breaking offers from Paris Saint-Germain or Manchester City are already mooted for a January move.
It is said that no player is bigger than a club, especially one such as Real Madrid. While it may well be the case, Ronaldo is not the first star player at the Bernabeu to test this out, or perhaps feel he is in a position to do so. He's not even the first Ronaldo to do so. As Real Madrid prepared for the Champions League clash with Arsenal in 2006, the Brazilian phenomenon said he didn't ‘feel comfortable’ at the Bernabeu. Fabio Capello was glad to see the back of him when he moved to Milan shortly afterwards.
There are other recent cases. Ruud van Nistelrooy celebrated a goal with an aggressive gesture – the corte de manga – aimed in the direction of where the club’s sporting director was sat. It was the same week of his contract negotiations. Without flinching he later said he didn’t know the gesture was offensive, but his point had been made. And when Zinedine Zidane met president Florentino Perez shortly after joining the club from Juventus, he said wasn't settling into the club, especially because Luis Figo wasn't passing him the ball very often. In the next match the Portuguese winger searched out the Frenchman at every opportunity.
Ronaldo winds up spectators and journalists alike. They read a quote of his saying he is better than Lionel Messi, they see the puffed out cheeks and chest, the thigh-pointing after 40-yard strikes, or the winking, and it winds them up. The latest outburst adds to this. It is, however, simply part of the deal for Real Madrid, who have to keep their highly-strung showman happy. The Ronaldo rules.