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Year Ender 2022: How Cristiano Ronaldo Ruined His Legacy in 90 Minutes

By: Vivek Ganapathy


Last Updated: December 28, 2022, 13:31 IST

New Delhi, India

Cristiano Ronaldo (Twitter)

Cristiano Ronaldo (Twitter)

For all his achievements, record and accolades it so seems that Ronaldo let his flawed human side get the better of himself amid deteriorating professional performance and tarnished the legacy he strived so hard to build ground up for the past couple of decades

The beauty of sport is the fact that it can spring up surprises when least expected, from the source you least expect it from.

Pundits and experts alike can debate and agree on a multitude of topics under the sun, but when the time of judgement arrives, it is all down to the ninety minutes that define careers and lives.

And as the year gone by would prove even Cristiano Ronaldo, the man who personifies the art of goalscoring for a generation and more, the athlete touted as the gold standard for sportsmen around the globe to observe, get inspired and try to emulate, isn’t an exception when father time roll around.

The Portuguese talisman was Manchester United’s darling boy up until he clipped on the microphone and gave a scathing review of the club that had aided the big man on his journey to superstardom. But, then the man whose very sight terrified the defensive units around the world fell from his high stead, in disturbingly disgraceful fashion.


What hurts to date isn’t the fact that his performances on the field had continually deteriorated ever since the ongoing season of the Premier League rolled around, but the characteristics and attitude of the man once considered to be one of United’s own turning his back on the club.

The 37-year-old broke the cardinal rule of airing out domestic laundry in public as he took to Piers Morgan’s ninety-minute exclusive on the telly to vent out his disgruntlement against the club and regime in place at the storied club from Manchester.

The disdain from United fans’ perspective probably lies in the fact that despite the new manager at the helm of Old Trafford, the promising Erik ten Hag going out of his way to protect the legacy and respect that Ronaldo had managed to accumulate over the years at every interview opportunity by calling him ‘part of his plans’ even after the highest goalscorer in men’s international football made his intention of competing in the UEFA Champions League, the continental tournament that United had missed out on this season, well known.

Also Read: Manchester United Outclass Nottingham Forest 3-0 to Start Life Without Ronaldo

Ronaldo, being the UCL specialist he is, understandably wanted to compete at the highest level, but ironically, there were no takers for him during the summer window.

With United performing unquestionably better without the presence of Ronald on the field, it was clear that the Dutchman in charge was ushering in a new era filled with potent attacking riches in the shape of youngsters.

Ronaldo, the serial winner and conversely, also the crybaby couldn’t face the fact that his team were unarguably better off without him on the field. And that isn’t a dig at the man who Madeira on the map, but a testament to what former colleague Wayne Rooney said, along the lines of, old age coming to us all.

The very same fusspot attitude that got him to the top of world football proved to be his undoing during his second stint at Manchester.

It was all rather pardonable even up until the now infamous walkout against Tottenham Hotspur as United were winning by 3 goals to nothing with Ronaldo on the bench. The Portuguese striker walked off in an unceremonious manner when asked to warm up before the final whistle.

Erik ten Hag was understandably furious, but the magnanimity of the Dutchman was on show as he excused the indiscretion of the forward and let him train with the team after a short period of penitence as he tried to bring the star back into the fold.

But, Ronaldo crossed the point of no return as he sat opposite Morgan and let the world know his displeasure with the ongoing situation in Manchester. He ripped into countless personalities that the United faithful hold dear and sacred.

And all this right before the world premiere of the quadrennial showpiece in Qatar where he was set to captain his beloved Portugal.

The interview was out as Morgan milked his meeting with the former Madrid star for everything it was worth, flashing it around the media circle and creating a sensation that few could envisage.

The footballer who was once revered as the darling of Manchester broke every United heart that beat to the tunes of ‘Glory Glory Man United!’.

And he damaged it beyond repair.

Then came the FIFA World Cup. Ronaldo set out to Qatar seeking one last shot at the prized trophy that to date stays out of his reach. He had a case of the stomach bug as he missed Portugal’s initial training day, but was back for their first game of the tournament against Ghana.

The Iberian side ended up winning their opening fixture 3-2, with their main man netting a penalty that made him the first man to score at five different World Cups. But, Ghana did give the Portuguese a scare as they cut down the arrears and so nearly got the equaliser before the final whistle.

Os Navagadores went into their second game of the group stage as they took on Uruguay and Ronaldo caused a stir again, but this time around, it wasn’t for his trademark goal-scoring touch, but ironically and literally the lack thereof.

Ronaldo celebrated teammate Bruni Fernandes’ goal as he claimed it as his own despite not getting a touch on the ball before it went past the line. The 37-year-old raised high into the air in an attempt to connect with the ball using his head but failed to do so as the ball found its way into the back of the net. The goal was ultimately awarded to the midfielder who had a terrific outing in the Middle East and the internet had a field day at the cost of the forward who was lambasted for his antics.

Portugal lost their final group game against South Korea, which permitted the Asian unit to seal a knockout berth in dramatic fashion, but Portugal weren’t deterred by the loss as they ended up topping their group despite the defeat.

Notably, Ronaldo was subbed off before the whistle and wasn’t happy with the coach’s decision and expressed his frustration regarding the same as he walked off the pitch. The tension ran high but the Portuguese boss, Fernando Santos, said he had put the star’s outburst behind him despite his displeasure at the tantrum on principle.

The round of 16 game against Switzerland was a chastening day for Ronaldo in national colours as coach Fernando Santos opted to start the 21-yea-old Benfica sensation Goncalo Ramos ahead of their starman and the move paid off dividends.

The purely ‘tactical’ change ended up as a platform for the young striker to shine on the international stage as he netted a stunning hat trick of high quality. The forward born in 2001, belted a shot from a tight angle to open the scoring for Portugal before converting a gilt-edged opportunity as he put the ball between the legs of the hapless Swiss keeper. He rounded off his treble with a clinical dink over the keeper as Portugal crushed their opponents 6-1 with three other goals coming from Pepe, Raphael Guerreiro and Rafael Leao.

Ronaldo was brought on in place of hattrick hero Ramos in the 74th minute of the game but failed to make a mark on the game before the end of the ninety.

In the following quarterfinal game, Ronaldo once again found himself on the bench at the initial whistle on a gameday that would see Portugal crash out of the World Cup at the hands of African history makers Morocco. Youssef En-Neysri’s towering first-half header proved to be the difference as Ronaldo and Portugal bid a tearful goodbye to Qatar.

Ronaldo’s lifetime mission of hoisting aloft the most prestigious trophy in world football will forever remain just a dream that would never see the light of day.

Call it comeuppance, call it karma, call it a cosmic due, come the end of the World Cup, Ronaldo would be left licking his wounds and cowering in shame while he witnessed his greatest rival put a full stop to the debate of the best player of the generation as Lionel Messi inspired Argentina to a World Cup title, thus fulfilling his destiny.

Agreed that Ronaldo has had a tough year personally, dealing with the loss of his stillborn child earlier in the calendar and my heart goes out to the man who once dazzled the audience and puzzled the opposition with his feisty movement on the ball. But, none of that was excuse enough to crush the hearts of the millions wreathed in red, who held him high up there, granting him demi-god status and in more than one way helping him ascend up the footballing ladder.

For all his achievements, record and accolades it so seems that Ronaldo let his flawed human side get the better of himself amid deteriorating professional performance and tarnished the legacy he strived so hard to build ground up for the past couple of decades.

He will go down in history books, in spite of the year he has had, but at the cost of tainting the heritage that was rather synonymous with the strict disciplinarian, who was the blueprint for all aspiring sportsmen across the vast spread of the earth…

…Until he picked up that microphone.

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first published:December 28, 2022, 13:31 IST
last updated:December 28, 2022, 13:31 IST