Photo by: Simon Reza
Cristiano Ronaldo has been recognized as one of the best in the game ever since he stepped on the ground at Old Trafford as an 18 year old. Since that moment he went on to win five golden boots, five UEFA champions league titles, one Euro cup, along with countless championship titles in the Premier league, La Liga and Seria A. He had every trophy in his case but one was missing, the World Cup and Lionel Messi was the man standing in his way.
So, who is the G.O.A.T? Well, after the 2022 World Cup in Qatar that question seems to have finally been answered in the minds of many football fans. Lionel Messi won his first-ever World Cup completing the trophy case and solidifying himself as the G.O.A.T of the football world. While an underwhelming performance from Ronaldo at the 2022 World Cup saw him finish the tournament coming off the bench.
So what went wrong for Ronaldo? Let us take a look at the last calendar year in order to understand why the once-proclaimed greatest of all time now seems to become more irrelevant with each passing day.
On July 4, 2022 Ronaldo was expected to return to Manchester United after being given a leave of absence on the grounds of family. Though Ronaldo failed to show up leading to an outburst from staff within the club and media members who cover the team who started to question the 37-year-olds ambition and passion. Despite a year prior – in August 2021 – Manchester United fans, media and staff were welcoming back Ronaldo after over a decade apart. So how could a fan base, media and staff who once worshipped Ronaldo begin to question his loyalty to a team that he said “has always had a special place in my heart”
Well, Ronaldo’s mediocre performance at the end of the previous season and now lack of dedication to not show up to training on time did not help his case or his relationship with manager Eric Tan Hag who proceeded to limit his playing time at the beginning of the season leading to ripples between Ronaldo and the organization. Manchester United was also underperforming at this time in the season leading to a lack of desire from Ronaldo to stay at the club as they were not competing in the Champions League.
On Oct. 20, 2022, Ronaldo was so infuriated with Ten Hag after he did not play a single minute of the match. Before the full-time whistle, Ronaldo walked off the field, down the tunnel and out of the stadium abandoning his teammates despite the team leading in the game.
From that moment on Ronaldo only played a few more games as tensions continued to rise between him and the organization. But the last straw for Manchester United was an interview that Ronaldo had participated in with British broadcaster, journalist and television personality Piers Morgan. In the interview, Ronaldo explained that he was frustrated with Manchester United and that he does not have respect for Erik Ten Hag who became manager in late April, 2022. “I don’t have respect for him because he doesn’t show respect for me,” Ronaldo said. “If you don’t have respect for me, I’m never gonna have respect for you.”
Not only did Ronaldo criticise the manager but he also shot back at former player and legend of the club Wayne Rooney for Rooney’s criticism towards him. “I don’t know why he criticises me so badly … probably because he finished his career and I’m still playing at [a] high level … I’m not going to say that I’m looking better than him. Which is true.” Ronaldo also went into detail on how he does not think the club is where it should be standings wise but refused to shoulder any of the blame for the disappointing start to the campaign.
These comments in the interview were the final straw for Manchester United and while Ronaldo was competing for Portugal at the World Cup both Manchester United and his camp came to an agreement to terminate his contract with the club.
Although the feud between Ronaldo and United was over, that was not the only feud that Ronaldo had been a part of.
The Portuguese international team and Cristiano were looking for their first World cup in the nation’s history. Many football fans thought that this would be accomplished with Ronaldo on the field for every moment of the tournament putting it all on the line for his nation. But a poor relationship with team Portugal’s manager and some of his teammates left Ronaldo on the bench in their round of 16 matchups vs Switzerland. The player that replaced Ronaldo as a striker, Goncalo Ramos, scored a hat trick in the game, leading the Portuguese to victory 6-1.
The feud continued into the quarterfinals vs Morocco where Ronaldo once again started on the bench in what could have been the last World cup game of his career. Morocco beat Portugal 1-0 and though Ronaldo only played the last thirty minutes of the game the best chances were generated when he was on the pitch. But many media members and Portuguese fans did not see it that way. They saw a “cancer” in the locker room who was only there to solidify his own career, tarnishing his legacy with some of the people surrounding the Portugal national team.
So Ronaldo with no club, yet another failed attempt at a World cup you would think that he would make a comeback to one of the bigger clubs in the world to try and cement his legacy and live on in the GOAT debate? No, instead of returning to a top European team such as Real Madrid, Ronaldo chose the money signing a two and a half year contract with Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr, and solidifying himself as the highest paid player of all time making 200 million euros a year.
So Cristiano Ronaldo will most likely finish his career in a subpar league after what could be looked at as one of the worst six months for a once-considered greatest of all time.