An encounter with Cristiano Ronaldo is a natural phenomenon. When he approaches, those in proximity drop everything to bear witness.
A ripple goes through an assembly of people, foretelling his arrival. You see them increase their speed, their volume. They panic that they might miss it.
It spreads; growing louder and more fervent until finally the wave crashes. It’s a surge of screaming and an unpocketing of smartphones. It’s incessant, primal howls of “SIIII”, of his name, each one of those a plea for recognition.
“Look at me so you know I exist”.
You don’t get to see this kind of thing so much when he plays for Real Madrid or Portugal. Yes, in a football context he gains most of the attention every weekend from the stands but that attention still has to be split among 21 other players.
There are fallow spells in matches; sometimes even other people score goals.
Eyes are no doubt drawn to him but playing a match is something he’s done nearly 1,000 times. It’s normal. Everyone who wants to see Ronaldo play can probably do so if they get a plane ticket to Madrid.
If you go to the Bernabeu to catch a Real Madrid game, you’re sure to see him. In there, he’s a tiger in cage. That’s a very different thing from seeing one in the jungle.
And to see Ronaldo in the flesh away from the stadium – where you’d expect to see him - is another thing altogether.
Most of Ronaldo’s social media activities, you’ll have noticed, are posts from his own fortress somewhere outside Madrid. You see him lounging in his lobby or awaiting breakfast or looking in his bathroom mirror.
He’s not the type of guy you’re just going to bump into in the street.
For the general public, to have him beside you and suck in the same air, it’s a privilege. All those goals, those moments, the trophies, the Ballons d’Or; perhaps there’s something about him - some magic dust - which people hope he’ll drop in his wake and make them great themselves.
Even here in Monte Carlo where a fruit salad will set you back €17 and the girls wear shoes worth more than a month’s rent, Ronaldo is king.
They have princes and princesses worth more billions than you could ever count in a lifetime but this crybaby from a tiny and poor Portuguese island has conquered them all.
He has not come by his riches through an accident of birth like they have but through persistence and fortitude.
To anyone who knows who he is, he is a walking illustration of attainment. He is what every one of us could be if we decided today was going to be the day it’ll all change. He is the world’s greatest self-help book. He is a motivational quote made flesh.
Fathers shove children towards him and snap pictures. Journalists forget themselves and stand in for a selfie. VIPs and dignitaries either get out of the way of Ronaldo and his entourage sweeping past them or they too are stuck fast by his celebrity.
Other players are here, too, but no one is losing their mind for Gigi Buffon, for Sergio Ramos, not even for Lionel Messi on the same scale.
They know a thing or two about superstars around here. Grace Kelly walked among them, Ringo Starr boasts an apartment here and Bjorn Borg is a long-time resident. It’s the kind of place where it takes a Maserati or a McLaren to really turn your head such is mundanity of luxury.
It is a place that can make you feel insignificant, unworthy even, because of the shallowness of your pockets. The people don’t necessarily mean to. But wealth is exclusive and it wouldn’t be exclusive if there was nobody to exclude.
Beneath Ronaldo, though, we’re all equal. Rich and not-so-rich, they clamour for a look at him as he arrives. There is an intoxication that comes from his kind of success and if people can’t have it for themselves then proximity is the next best thing.
He strides purposefully through the lobby of the Grimaldi Forum at Uefa’s season-opening showcase on his way to pick up two more awards. Sunglasses, a cut grey suit, a throng of assistants bustling to make sure nothing stops his progress. He leaves in his wake rancour, adrenaline and pumping hearts.
Back in his natural surroundings, a safe distance from those who’d like to touch him, he stands astride the stage with his Player of the Year trophy and his award for being the best forward in Europe and he smiles. He goes through the platitudes, thanking team-mates, family, and so on. Then he’s off.
We are informed that Ronaldo won’t be doing the traditional award winner’s press huddle. Why would he? It would just be another scene of chaos.
Later, he’ll be pictured standing before a helicopter with his brother, awaiting a departure to the Nice Cote D’Azur airport, from which he’ll fly back to Madrid by private jet.
He’ll be back in his house in a couple of hours, gates closed and lights out. We’ll catch a glimpse of him behind the one-way glass of Instagram but from our lives he has vanished again. A clap of thunder, a tidal wave.