Amid tensions at Man United (and an explosive sit-down with Piers Morgan) let’s establish everything at stake in Cristiano Ronaldo’s fifth FIFA World Cup appearance.
UPDATE 11/22: Ronaldo’s contract with Man United has been terminated by mutual consent. Click here to read the full story from Boardroom’s Shlomo Sprung.
Cristiano Ronaldo is making headlines for all the wrong reasons. As he gears up for his fifth World Cup, the once-celebrated forward is taking aim at the club where his legacy began. In sitting down for a tell-all with Piers Morgan for British television, the iconic footballer chastised Manchester United for making what was meant to be a storybook reunion into anything but. The interview dropped in two parts this week, with the second arriving Nov. 17, but Morgan — ever eager to be the center of attention — released a few teaser clips a bit early.
Within the conversation, CR7 detailed his disdain for current United manager Erik ten Haag, heaped on the praise for former manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær, and likened the criticism he receives to jealousy.
“I still believe that the jealousy is part of that [criticism]. They want to cover many things that helps to shine other things. But listen, I know I’m 21 years in [the] top of the game, so I know all the takes, so for me, it’s not a problem,” he told Morgan.
It’s not the sort of distraction Fernando Santos’ Portugal side were hoping for as they chase a first-ever World Cup trophy in Qatar.
Since the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson retired nearly a decade ago, Man United have been in a bit of disarray, so Ronaldo isn’t exactly wrong in his basic assessment of the team, and given that the team and its fans alike had long grown accustomed to Premier League royalty status, feelings of frustration are natural. However, Ronaldo loses the plot when he fails to acknowledge his own shortcomings.
On the tail end of an undisputed storied career, it’s astonishing everyone’s to blame except himself — especially in recent matches that have increasingly showcased teammates outperforming the so-called GOAT.
As he prepares to compete in what is likely to be his final World Cup, there’s a lot more intrigue surrounding Ronaldo than simply how Portugal will fare in the tournament, which finds them in a winnable Group H. It’s likely the five-time Ballon d’Or winner played his final match for United before this extended international break, too, but where does that leave him when club play resumes after Christmas?
Come January, United are prepared to make Ronaldo available on a free transfer, presumably via termination of his contract by mutual consent; in fact, ESPN reports United granted him a free departure during the summer transfer window earlier this year. With a resume any footballer could dream of rivaling, clubs across Europe and even stateside would be lucky to have Ronaldo’s expertise on the pitch. Problem is, the former Real Madrid and Juventus star has separated the skill from the attitude, and right now, the latter is what fans and prospective teams are unfortunately focusing on, to say nothing of his massive wage demands that currently find him taking home over half a million dollars per week.
Once he heals from a stomach bug, it’s quite possible that we’ll be treated to bits of master-class, vintage Ronaldo in Qatar. We’ll soon be reminded why he’s collected seven league titles and five champions league trophies. Hell, perhaps some will briefly forget about this explosive sit-down opposite someone with a similarly sizable ego. But will his eventual new home risk signing an athlete whose happiness is reliant on always getting his way? Is it worth passing on, say, a teenage wunderkind in favor of a forward whose goal-scoring capability is no longer set-it-and-forget-it?
All told, it’s up to Ronaldo himself prove he’s not as much of a burden as it’s so easy to perceive him to be right now — and that he can still deliver goals by the bushel. It’s an uphill battle regardless, and not one worth taking the gamble if the objective is to eliminate dramatics in the locker room and make winning a habit.
One of the first things we learn as fans is that no player is bigger than the club. Regardless of the amount of hardware you deliver to fill a trophy room, supporters expect better than unleashing scathing assessments when things don’t go your way. With all this in mind, the 2022 World Cup may be the final chance for Ronaldo to prove he’s still an exceptional soccer star, as he’ll have quite literally the entire world watching him starting next Thursday against Ghana.
Yes, his legacy is forever cemented in soccer history. He may very well go down as the GOAT, especially if he claims one more trophy in Qatar. But the respect that’s meant to arrive in tandem with such achievements may already be gone.
2022 Portugal World Cup Games (Group H)
Nov. 24 vs Ghana, 11:00 a.m ET
Nov. 28 vs. Uruguay, 2 p.m. ET
Dec. 2 vs. South Korea, 10 a.m. ET
Ronaldo World Cup History
Tournaments: 5 (2006, 2010, 2014, 2018, 2022)
Best finish: Fourth (2006)
Games played: 17
Minutes played: 1,474
Goals scored: 7
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