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CWC was the icing on Ronaldo’s cake

15 Jan 2009(Thu)

January 13, 2009: Although we did not see the best of him in Japan last month, Cristiano Ronaldo had done enough long before then to make him the red-hot favourite to win the FIFA Player of the Year award for 2008.

As expected, the 23-year-old Manchester United winger duly collected the trophy on Monday to complete a hat trick of high-profile individual awards in recent weeks.

Like him or loathe him, there is no doubt that Ronaldo is a special talent. With his extravagant, high-speed skills, his tricky improvisation and his goal-scoring ability, he has established himself as an entertainer and a winner; a tough combination to achieve.

And while I am not a Manchester United fan, I cannot understand the critics who say that Ronaldo does not turn it on in the big games. I thought that every match Manchester United played was a big game, week in week out in the English Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup, and especially in the UEFA Champions League for a club with such a rich tradition in that tournament.

It is not quite so easy to defend the darker side of Ronaldo, though, and this was in evidence aplenty at the Club World Cup in Japan, mainly in the final. It’s not so much that he goes to ground so readily, as many players are guilty of that in modern-day football; it is more that he sits on the deck and complains that he should have been given a free kick when the referee has waved play on. It is like he feels he is entitled to a free kick every time someone touches him, and it’s that trait which I find irritating.

It must be a nightmare trying to referee a game in which he plays. On one hand the ref has an obligation to protect a player of such immense talent from the fouls and the spoiling tactics of the opposition, while on the other hand he must be strong and not be fooled by the theatrics and the supporting histrionics from the bench.

On the subject of modern-day football trends, by chance I caught a short “Where are they now?” feature on a TV football show the other day. The centre of attention was the former Chelsea defender Ron Harris, better known as “Chopper” for obvious reasons.

One phrase worried me, and it was when Chopper Harris said, “Back in my day, when football was a contact sport…”

Meaning that you could tackle -- and tackle hard. Today it is virtually a non-contact sport; when a touch is a foul and a foul is a yellow card.

Chelsea's Chopper Harris marking Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo? Now that would have been quite a battle!


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