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Doctor Cristiano and Mister Ronaldo
The best and the worst of Cristiano Ronaldo were again on display in Sunday’s 2-0 La Liga win over Malaga, and his sending off for violent conduct has prompted fierce debate over what some in Spain are calling his “Jekyll and Hyde” character.
The Portuguese forward netted a superb first-half double to put Real Madrid in command at the Bernabeu but his night turned from glory to shame when he was dismissed for lashing out at Patrick Mtiliga and breaking the defender’s nose.
It was his second red card of the season after his sending-off against Almeria in December for kicking out at an opponent and he appeared lucky to stay on the pitch in this month’s defeat at Athletic Bilbao for a similar incident.
“Cristiano Ronaldo, hero and villain” (El Pais), “Cristiano Ronaldo, again angel and demon” (La Razon) and “Doctor Cristiano and Mister Ronaldo” (Marca), were some of the headlines in Monday’s Spanish press.
Marca columnist Roberto Palomar said Ronaldo’s behaviour had been his “umpteenth act of idiocy this season” and slammed him for letting the team down with Gonzalo Higuain injured and Ruud van Nistelrooy sold to Hamburg SV at the weekend.
“Anyone who gets sent off against Almeria and Malaga with the match already won is a fool,” Palomar wrote.
“Someone needs to sit down with the lad and explain what’s what because you can’t go through life behaving like that.”
Ronaldo apologised to Mtiliga and said he never tried to hurt another player. But that being the case, why did he feel the need for a second backward swing of the arm when he had already shaken free of the Dane’s challenge?
“People who understand football know that my intention is always to try and play. The red card is a disgrace I don’t understand it,” he told reporters.
“I know you saw blood on the TV screens but I was just trying to break free. I never try to hurt anyone.”
There are many great players who, on occasion, have seemed to succumb to an inner demon – Zinedine Zidane, Diego Maradona, Eric Cantona and Hristo Stoichkov to name only a few.
El Mundo columnist Orfeo Suarez noted on Monday that it’s rare to find a good forward without a touch of devilry inside but how far should we accept acts of folly as being unavoidable characteristics of football genius, the angel and the demon?
As Palomar wrote in Marca, Ronaldo is not fouled any more regularly than players like Messi or Atletico Madrid forward Sergio Aguero and there are many players around who have the same hunger for success.
Ronaldo will be suspended at the least for Saturday’s difficult trip to Deportivo Coruna and his latest lapse puts his goal of winning the FIFA World Player Award back from Messi in jeopardy.
Time to see more of the Jekyll and less of the Hyde.
PHOTO: Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo reacts to his sending-off against Malaga in La Liga, Sunday Jan. 24. REUTERS/Sergio Perez