"Ungracious" Ronaldo should know all about what it takes for an underdog to succeed

Comments()
Getty
Ahead of Portugal's Euro 2016 group stage game against Austria, the three-time Ballon d'Or winner would do well to remember what it was like for him at the beginning of his career

GOALCOMMENT

Cristiano Ronaldo might not be in the words of Iceland's Kari Arnason "an ungracious human being" but he behaved like one following Portugal's 1-1 draw with Iceland at Euro 2016 on Tuesday night.

The Portugal captain cannot help himself with his reactions sometimes, demonstrating that no matter how rich or famous he grows, he can be just like the rest of us - jealous and spiteful.

It's part of what makes him all that he is and people admire him for it. He kicks the ball in frustration back into the goal after Alvaro Arbeloa reaches it in front of him to score in the first place. He declines to celebrate Gareth Bale's goal because he would have preferred a penalty for a foul in the build up. Sepp Blatter making fun of him before the Ballon d'Or vote hurts him deeply.

He is sensitive, he cannot help what makes him upset. These little tantrums are what separates Ronaldo from the rest of the elite band of players. He is a passionate man, he wears his heart on his sleeve and he expresses himself. In this age Ronaldo remains a breath of fresh air.

He demands - of himself and his team-mates - the best. He worked hard to be the greatest footballer in the world - a quest surely ego-driven - and when things don't follow that exact plan he grows agitated. Some of his actions and comments do come across as aloof or conceited but there are not many top players out there who will tell you what they think. Ronaldo, emotionally, is about as honest as they come. And Ronaldo ought to be admired for his forthrightness.

"When we talk about other people and other people's reactions, in Portugal we normally say if you don't feel you're not really a good person," Ronaldo's coach Fernando Santos said on Friday. "After what the Iceland manager [Lars Lagerback] said and what their players did for 90 minutes - their fans booed Pepe and Ronaldo and their players on the bench kept heckling Pepe.

"We have our feelings and sometimes people will respond in a very emotional way."

It's not every national team captain who will front up after a 1-1 draw against a team that should have been defeated. That shows good character, that he was willing to take it on the chin and talk about a bad night at the office.

He was on the receiving end of some big tackles early on and never recovered his composure. He missed two good chances and blasted a 90th minute free kick into the wall. If he had cause to complain, he should not have been pointing fingers at Iceland, he might have done well to consider his own impact on the night.

Instead he picked the wrong target. Ronaldo said Iceland had a "small mentality", had come to "defend, defend, defend", and for those reasons they were going to do "nothing" at Euro 2016.

Ronaldo's home island of Madeira has a population roughly comparable to Iceland. How would Madeira fare if they qualified for the Euros? Would Ronaldo be proud - first of himself - but then of his island's achievements? Of course he would. And how would he feel if - knowing how hard he's worked, how hard his fellow islanders might have worked - a great, admired player like himself would come along after and cheapen those achievements?

Ronaldo's approval means a lot to some Iceland players - if not all as we saw in Arnason's case. Aron Gunnarsson, the captain, tried to exchange shirts with him on Tuesday night but was knocked back so he clearly wanted a memento of the night he confronted greatness.

He is a good guy, eager to please. You can see it in the way he looks after the youngest member of the Portugal squad - Renato Sanches. He is always playfully tugging his dreadlocks or putting an arm around him. Ronaldo knows exactly what it is like to be Renato - the hugely-promising teenage talent called up to the senior team for a major tournament. That was Ronaldo at Euro 2004. He remembers what it was like and is doing his best to help Renato through it.

One thing's for sure, there is no way Ronaldo forgets what it was like to work hard, defy expectations and refuse to take no for answer. If he looks closer he might find elements of the Iceland story present in his own. A small island boy sent to the mainland in order to make a better life for himself and his family, he succeeded and should recognise the same traits in Iceland. Ronaldo was the underdog; skinny, emotional, never marked out for greatness.

Iceland, up there in the wilderness, nobody took their football seriously. But they, like Ronaldo, got serious. They figured out what it would take for their players to train well, learn well and understand what it took to succeed. And this is their pay-off. Ronaldo is better, much better, than any Iceland player but their draw against Portugal for any number of reasons will make every citizen of a nation of 330,000 feel like they've won the Ballon d'Or.

Goal journalists are powered by the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Gear 360

Close