What is it about Ronaldo that makes people loathe him and love him with the same intensity? Is his arrogance justified? Is he really the best player of our times? Is he better than Messi? Will he redeem his worth in the Euro 2012, or will he merely remain the everlasting shadow at No. 2 behind Argentinean maestro Messi?
His goal-scoring spree for Portugal prior to this tournament had been frugal to say the least, scoring only twice under the previous coach. In the last three major tournaments for his country, Ronaldo had found the net once and only once on each occasion. He seemed destined to be scoffed by his Portugal fans unless he could salvage his pride and prove to be a worthy contender yet again for the Ballon d’Or, which had spurned him for Messi since 2009.
Ronaldo thus had a lot at stake as Portugal took the field against Germany in their first match of Group B; and yet again, he drew the jeers from the crowd who kept chanting “Messi, Messi, Messi”. The resplendence and bounteousness were again lacking from his performance and despite his sulks and pouts and temerity, things did not improve against Denmark either. His fans relegated him to depravity — for failing to transcript the scintillating performances he brought forth for his club, on the grandest stage for his country.
And then came the battle of egos with the Dutch national team. Here, Ronaldo finally rewarded those patient fans who had suffered through the ordeal of seeing him blatantly strutting and preening without a single goal to his name. Ronaldo called forth some sheer pace, dexterity and skill and dogmatised the opponents into appearing as an abject, helpless side. With two goals coming off his boot that night, few could deny Ronaldo his statutory celebration. It was perhaps the most exquisite performance of his international career.
He adhered to his newly discovered form against the Czechs by a winning header that put Portugal into the semis of Euro 2012. But was that enough to answer his critics? True, he levigated the Czechs by his mercurial athwart careering. He intimidated the defenders by dashing in and seemingly dawdling with the ball — his customary skills at their supremacy. But akin to the previous matches, he targeted the post a tad too often, behaved churlishly giving vent to his frustration, and made a motley of gestures when his team-mates failed to pass the ball his way at the precise moment. Despite that, he answered the fervent prayers of the Portuguese and rose to the occasion with a magnificent header. With the final whistle, he dropped to his knees and pumped his clenched fists before jumping into the arms of his team-mates to begin a long night of extolment.
But was it really his redemption?
Being the exalted superstar that he is, he draws admiration and criticism from a wide range of fans (and haters). The most-discussed stratagem of his that night, was a travesty of football. Top models Bar Refaeli and Irina Shayk got into a Twitter catfight over his overtly gelled hair. Israeli beauty Refaeli insulted the styled-up do of Shayk’s boyfriend Ronaldo by posting on Twitter, “The only thing I can think of when I watch Ronaldo is that hair gel should really be outlawed!”. Shayk retaliating by responding, “Being a hater is not a cute look. Learn to love.” In spite of Refaeli’s apparent disdain for his hairdo, it escalated Portugal into the semis and whetted the appetites of a million fans for the next spark awaiting in the following game.
It’s safe to bet that whatever be the score, Ronaldo will be berated and approbated in an equal measure. Though it may not always be on the terms of his golden touch to the ball.