It feels a little bit clichéd to have a go at Cristiano Ronaldo, but it’s bit easy to shake your fist at the guy with the ever-growing ego, perfect hair and his own museum on his home island, Madeira.
Ronaldo doesn’t make it easy for himself, his completely unreasonable comments following his side’s draw against Iceland being a case in point. However, he remains one of the two finest footballers on the planet. His footballing achievements deserve nothing but respect.
That is, at least, until Euro 2016. With just two points from two matches, Ronaldo and Portugal are in danger of an early elimination from the tournament, and the golden boy has to take his share of the blame.
Part of this is just down to some uncharacteristic errors in his play. A late header to win the game against Iceland would normally fly in, as would the penalty that he somehow dragged against the post at a similar time in the goalless stalemate against Austria.
Beyond this, however, Ronaldo is hampering the chances of a talented young team, stopping them from making any real impression on the tournament.
There are lots of examples of one stratospheric talent playing in a mediocre team at this tournament. Gareth Bales and Wales, obviously, but also Marek Hamsik and Robert Lewandowski. All three of those sides have more points than Portugal, despite Ronaldo being a far more complete player.
Even more than when he plays for Real Madrid, everything that Portugal do seems to be geared towards engineering some glory for their icon. Even free-kick within a 45-yard radius is belted towards goal by Ronaldo, usually pinging off the wall or flying into the stands. Would it not be better, once or twice, to deliver the ball into the box and let Pepe and Ricardo Carvalho try and get on the end of it?
— Sky Sports News HQ (@SkySportsNewsHQ) June 19, 2016
Portugal are not a one-man team and have some fine young talent, particularly in midfield. Andre Gomes is being linked with all of Europe’s biggest clubs, whilst teenager Renato Sanches has earned a move to Bayern Munich. Add in Rafa Silva, off the back of a wonderful season with Braga, and Joao Moutinho, capable of controlling a game like few other players in the tournament, and they should be producing so much more.
When every pass has to look for Ronaldo, though, and so many moves break down when he shoots from an improbable angle, his talented teammates disappear into their shell. Both of Portugal’s games so far have been the Ronaldo show, both good and bad, and it is easy to forget just how talented the Portuguese roster is.
It’d be ridiculous to say that Ronaldo should be dropped, and he could still find form and turn this tournament on its head, but rampant individualism is not the way for one of the finest players of his generation to find the international success that he craves so much.