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Wow, Cristiano Ronaldo is having quite the World Cup. Put aside for a second the self-immolation of the Piers Morgan interview that seems to have killed his career at the highest level of European football and his legacy at Manchester United. Instead, think exclusively about the recent events that have occurred in this tournament. Plenty remains for the taking.
Since winning and converting a controversial penalty in Portugal's opening game, he has claimed to score a goal he did not touch, set up another for the opposition by cowering at a set-piece, and flounced off the pitch in a barrage, and, as a result, he has now been dropped from the starting lineup, a decision that heralded a statement 6-1 victory and arguably the best team performance seen in Qatar.
As a club exile and an international substitute, the most famous, marketable person in the world right now is arguably at the lowest point of a career that all but one of his contemporaries could only dream of, that has redefined what it means to be a success in this sport, and that has remodeled the sport itself. What comes next for a player who seems to have all they could want? What will happen to the guy who seems to be losing it all? At the very least, a World Cup semi-final.
If he plays at all, when it came to the quarterfinal match against Morocco, Gonçalo Ramos tried all in his power to prevent Ronaldo from regaining his starting spot. A performance like that by the Benfica striker, who not only scored the goals Ronaldo was meant to provide but also contributed much more, makes him an obvious choice to keep his starting berth. Goncalo, according to head coach Fernando Santos, "has various traits." I'd describe him as a really active individual. My remark was confirmed by what he showed us.
While compared to Ronaldo, whose conception of a center forward is more static, Ramos' desire to chase down Switzerland players and his movement off the ball when Portugal was in control could not have been more contrasting. As a result of Ramos's addition to the team, Portugal went from being a stodgy and cautious side under Santos to playing some of the most expansive football in the tournament, belying their image as a dour and traditional outfit.
It's clear that this is the next step. You'd think so, at least, even if Santos was characteristically vague when asked whether Ronaldo had a chance to regain his starting spot. Even if they aren't in the starting 11, he plans to employ all of the guys he has available.
However, this is the guy who has known Ronaldo longer than any other notable individual now working in sport, who helped raise him up through the Sporting Clube de Portugal junior system, and who at the full-time still felt able to characterize their connection as "extremely close." Santos has promised that he does not and will not let his emotions influence his choices. The human and personal component is never confused with the manager and player dynamic between Ronaldo and myself," he remarked. Although, there was also a branch of peace.
Even if Santos had voiced his disapproval of Ronaldo's outburst against South Korea, it is now irrelevant. He said, "This is something that is completed and solved." Additionally, this player's past serves as an instructive example. He is a world-class player, so we need just show up as a group. Even from this position, it seems that a return to the starting lineup is still possible.
The only odd thing about an otherwise symbolic and significant evening was Ronaldo's response to each goal, particularly the five that were scored while he was still on the substitutes' bench. Ronaldo did not sit there expressionless as six goals were scored; he grinned, cheered, and even celebrated a few of them. He was a model teammate, expressing none of the resentment that would have been anticipated from him. It stood as the evening's lone incongruity with the planned story.
Even though it was out of character, the simplest explanation for his behavior is usually the most likely. Ronaldo has a high level of intelligence. Despite the size of his ego and feeling of self-worth, he is willing to sacrifice both for the greater good. He knows very well that he is within two games of the World Cup championship. His United career blew apart, and he never got to play in the Europa League quarterfinals because of it. If the same were to be done on the international stage, he would be denied the chance to compete at the highest level of his sport.
After the game, instead of venting his anger at the people responsible for one of the lowest points of his international career, he was applauding, cheering, and virtually racing across the mixed zone. So be it if he needs to go through all that just to go back on the field and participate in the game he thinks he was born to play. Your initial thought was to write an epitaph for his career when the team sheets were released at the Lusail on Tuesday night. It was a desire that intensified as the night progressed. The World Cup may not be done yet, but Ronaldo has a tournament to remember.
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