There are many views of exactly where Cristiano Ronaldo stands in the stellar firmament of soccer superstardom.
He has achieved global fame with Manchester United and Real Madrid – who set a world record transfer fee at the time – and is ranked by the influential Forbes magazine as the highest paid footballer on the planet.
There is little doubt that the man born Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro on the island of Madeira 32 years ago, is one of the world’s most gifted players, the captain of the Portuguese national side, the holder of the most caps and goals for his country, a fourtime winner of Fifa’s Ballon d’Or award – the most for a European player – and the first player in history to win four European Golden Boots.
He is equally admired off the field as a fashion icon and trendsetter with his own fragrance and clothing label, and has had the airport in his native Madeira – the fourth largest in Portugal – named after him.
Ronaldo has just as high a profile as a philanthropist over a range of causes: from supporting the establishment of a Madeiran cancer centre; helping promote schools in Gaza; Fifa’s “11 for Health” programme to raise awareness among kids of how to steer clear of conditions including drug addiction, HIV, malaria and obesity; to saving the mangroves in Indonesia.
He does not drink – his father died early of alcoholism-related problems – and has no tattoos as he is a regular blood donor.
All in all, you would have thought a thoroughly acceptable personal package. But bubbling under this all is a sense of petulant brattishness typified by his sending off for diving – a trait he has repeatedly been accused of – during the Spanish Super Cup against Barcelona.
Referee Ricardo De Burgos Bengoetxea controversially dismissed the attacker for a second bookable offence as he went down in the box to try to win a penalty.
Pushing the referee in a fit of pique as he was ordered off didn’t do his cause any good either and cost him a five-week ban he promptly labelled “exaggerated and ridiculous”.
That didn’t do any appeal over the length of the sanction any good either. Which all goes to show that no matter how revered you are, no matter how rich or famous, the game is always bigger.