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31st Dec 2022

Cristiano Ronaldo: The sad decline of a player that refused to listen to anyone but himself

Callum Boyle

Ronaldo’s days at the top are over

It’s officially signed, sealed and delivered, Cristiano Ronaldo is a professional footballer in Saudi Arabia.

A move often best suited to out of sorts Premier League footballers approaching the end of their career, nobody could have ever foreseen that Ronaldo’s final days as a footballer end in the Middle East. After all, he is one of the greatest footballers of all time, isn’t he?

Cristiano Ronaldo was never giving up the ghost

What was meant to be a happy final few chapters – maybe ending with a trophy at the club that made him, Manchester United, or returning to where it all began at Sporting Lisbon – the last few pages will now make for grim reading.

Meanwhile the man that he has been compared to most is celebrating in his homeland with the World Cup aloft and dreaming of yet another Champions League title in Europe while Ronaldo gears up to face opponents such as Al-Hilal in soulless, empty stadiums.

Back in February 2021, Cristiano Ronaldo was watching a BT Sport clip that mentioned Kylian Mbappé and Erling Haaland as football’s next big player rivalry. These would be the lads that would take the baton from Ronaldo and Messi.

Ronaldo quickly reached for his phone and messaged BT pundit, and old teammate, Rio Ferdinand: “It’s not over.”

It most certainly is over now.

Cristiano Ronaldo

It signifies the story of a man too stubborn to listen to the noise around him, instead opting to live in his own fantasy that he is still at the top of his game.

His decline is one that is completely normal for any 37-year-old in elite football. He’s not the new kid on the block, he’s the grandparent that reminisces on tales of his youth to the younger counterparts, imparting his wisdom upon them while still having his odd moment of magic here and there.

Unsatisfied with his new-found role as an impact player and refusing to believe that his days are numbered, he threw his toys out of the pram. While his explosive interview with Piers Morgan did some good – publicly calling out the Glazers – it was the nail in the coffin for his days at the top.

Realistically, nobody was going to take a chance on him. The old saying is that no player is bigger than the club, but in Ronaldo’s case, he always thinks he is bigger than the club.

Aspirations of finding a Champions League club willing to sacrifice team harmony all in the name of making a few extra quid from shirt sales and a boost in attendances were borderline impossible. Juventus and United had suffered already, there was no club hoping it would be third time lucky.

Eventually the penny dropped for Ronaldo and here we are now, with his effective retirement from club football and probably the end of his international career too.

Cristiano Ronaldo

I wish I listened…

Ronaldo has signed a seven-year deal at Al Nassr. Two of those will be spent as a player, while the other five will be in an ambassadorial role alongside Lionel Messi, as Saudi Arabia prepares its latest sportswashing exercise in a bid to win the rights to co-host the 2030 World Cup with Greece and Egypt.

He won’t be out of the wilderness though, Ronaldo’s name is too big for that. He joined on Friday night and since then, Al Nassr’s social media following has grown at a rapid rate and people will still flock to see him run down the line and shout ‘SIU’ when he scores his fourth of the game in a win against Al-Fateh.

Cristiano Ronaldo strikes most people as a man who doesn’t have regrets, but in 10-20 years time – when all of this is done – he will look back and think: ‘I wish I listened to all of those people’.

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