The eternal struggle that Cristiano Ronaldo has had with himself, to become the world’s greatest – or more to the point, the eternal struggle he’s had with the world of football, to make them accept, his belief, that he is the best footballer to ever grace the beautiful game – has been a dramatic affair.
Given how the former Manchester United forward responds to the moments he perceives as disrespectful – five career red cards for lashing out at opponents – you can’t imagine Ronaldo has taken Zinedine Zidane’s use of him so far this season, too well.
Real Madrid kicked off 2017 with a fairly routine, 3-0 Copa del Rey last-16 first-leg win at home to Sevilla, without their self-proclaimed talisman anywhere to be seen, despite being fit and fresh off being crowned the Ballon d’Or winner for a fourth time.
Zidane, naturally, threw around the bog standard responses to questions on CR7’s surprise omission:
Zidane "Cristiano is a very intelligent player. We have 20 games in 60 days, We talk about it and sometimes he knows he has to rest."
— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) January 6, 2017
That’s just it, though, Ronaldo doesn’t know he has to rest. During the 2013/14 season, Ronaldo was suffering with patellar tendonitis – the injury that eventually ended the original Ronaldo’s career – from January until the Champions League Final in May (a game in which Los Blancos defeated Atletico 4-1). However, during those months, Ronaldo was continually advised he needed to rest and have a few weeks off, but he declined to listen to the advice – it all culminated in a disappointing 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
The desire to play, thrive, win and prove everyone wrong still burns in Ronaldo, and there’s not a chance he will take Zidane’s marginalising of him lying down – throughout his time in Madrid, Ronaldo has thrown tantrums over his belief that the Real hierarchy don’t appreciate him enough.
2014/15 season under Carlo Ancelotti, Ronaldo played 54 out of the club’s 59 games – suspension, injuries and early Copa Del Rey rounds were the reason for the five absences. And last season, Ronaldo was substituted only twice all season, playing 4,293 minutes of a possible 4,710.
Zidane’s decision to finally be brave, where his predecessors weren’t, is a bold one. Although, you can’t argue against what the French icon is doing at the Bernabeu, no matter how much Ronaldo won’t like it.