In a World Cup qualifier in September 2013, Portugal and Ronaldo travelled to Belfast to play Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland took a 2-1 lead, following which chants of “Messi, Messi!” erupted every time our hero touched the ball.
Ronaldo then took the bull by the horns and scored a twenty minute hat-trick (including a direct free-kick, for those of you following stats at this Euro), resulting in a 4-2 win. Watching it again, I think it’s fairly obvious that it was this “banter” that motivated him.
We’re familiar with his other escapades- whipping off his shirt after scoring an inconsequential penalty in Real’s 4-1 Champions League final victory over Atletico Madrid, needlessly posing in his underwear, criticising Iceland’s “small-nation” mentality, and chucking a microphone into a lake. I won’t deny that I found it quite satisfying when he missed his penalty against Austria, but I think now that maybe he might just be playing up to his image as the response to it is what really gets him going.
Lat night, I think we finally saw the mask slip.
When he finally admitted defeat to his injury and suffered one last act of indignity, being bothered by a cheeky moth (which now has at last 50 parody twitter accounts to its name), it suddenly became difficult not have empathy for him (although I’ll be honest that I was still a bit cynical about it). “Devastation” doesn’t quite do justice to how visibly upset he was being taken away on the stretcher. He’d played on when he was quite obviously injured, something he would have known his club manager might not have been best pleased with, and I was surprised to see him pop up on the touchline, joining his manager to give his players extra support, geeing up the fans and generally being an inspiration (all that jumping around won’t have helped his injury much either). Then, unconfined joy when the whistle went, obviously delighted for his teammates and his country.
Maybe he is human after all. But I think he’d probably like to keep up the pantomime act for a while longer…