Ronaldo’s individual brilliance is also his curse

Cristiano is undoubtedly the world’s best footballer at the moment but his cabinet of team trophies may never do justice to his individual brilliance

Ronaldo's individual brilliance is also his curse
Cristiano Ronaldo looked happy tonight – genuinely delighted – that he had been again handed the Ballon d’Or, that trophy he covets more than any other.

He was so overcome with emotion at last year’s event that we were very nearly treated to football’s very own Sally Field “You like me, you really like me” speech from the 1984 Oscars ceremony. This time, with the result in the bag long before the announcement, the reaction was relatively muted, but this is the silverware he wants most of all.

Generally it takes great players to make great teams, but the reverse is also true. There would be no Ronaldo without Angel Di Maria, without Luka Modric, without Sergio Ramos. Those players submit to the collective and embody the awareness of two objectives to their game plan; winning matches and keeping Cristiano happy.

Cristiano did not score in the two games he played in Morocco as Real won the Fifa Club World Cup and lost out on the Golden Ball there to Ramos. Consequently, he went through the motions in the celebrations. It had not been his tournament and so it did not appear to mean a lot to him.

His team had just been crowned the best in the world but being named best player in the world looks to mean a good deal more to Ronaldo. That night he flew to Madeira to unveil a statue of himself outside the museum he had built as an eternal testament to his own brilliance.

In 2014, he became the first player to score 25 goals in five consecutive seasons. He became the first player to score 50 goals in four successive campaigns. He was the first player to score for two winning teams in a Champions League final. He was the top scorer in the Champions League with a record 17 goals. He was the LFP and the Uefa player of the year.

He reached 200 Spanish league goals quicker than any one else in history. He surpassed Raul’s haul of 71 Champions League goals. He shared the European Golden Shoe with Luis Suarez  (“I will not lie. I really wanted to win it,” he said of sharing that gong). He became Portugal’s all-time top goalscorer. He became the first Portuguese in history to play and score in three World Cups. All of those things he would have achieved without winning a thing – and some of those things he achieved without getting anywhere near outright victory.

He was, however, not fit for the Champions League final nor was he fit for the World Cup. The magnanimous thing to do would have been to sit both out and allow a fitter colleague contribute more. As things went, Madrid did not need him on the night as they overcame Atletico Madrid in Lisbon. Portugal would have had no worse a tournament had he stayed at home.

The Ballon d’Or has grown this big in the age of Cristiano and Lionel Messi. It is now football’s Oscars night and they have shared the award every year for the past seven. Kaka, in 2007, was the last player to beat either to the award.

It is an award, generally, for the player which best defines the best team in the world. Ronaldo, in that respect, is a deserving recipient this year. His year though was more about what he achieved as an individual than as part of the Real Madrid team.

“If you have a number 10 who scores 15 goals, and a guy who scored 50 goals, there are eight chances out of 10 that guy is going to win the Ballon d’Or,” Real Madrid and France legend Zinedine Zidane told Goal. “If Ronaldo keeps scoring 50 to 60 goals a season, it will be hard for the others.”

Even if Ramos had not scored that late equaliser in the Champions League final, then Ronaldo would still have won this. His individual accolades far outstrip what he achieved as part of a group to the extent that la Decima became a footnote in Ronaldo’s 2014.

He celebrated his record-breaking goal in the Champions League semi-final against Bayern by counting to 15 with his hands. He did not flash up a 10 when Real secured la Decima – he took off his shirt and invited the world to feast its eyes.

In this, the age of Ronaldo, the emphasis has shifted from the great teams to the great players. Part of it is because he and Messi are so good and it will not be until both retire until the parameters by which we define greatest will stretch beyond the statistics of Games (Goals) and back to collective achievement.

The validation of being the best, and not merely part of the best, is what motivates. It has led to Ronaldo becoming the greatest modern footballer, and winning things with his club has only been a part of the process of making himself great.

In 12 years as a player for Manchester United and Real Madrid, Ronaldo has won four league titles. Consequently, Ronaldo’s collective trophy haul falls a long way short of the individual accolades he has accrued.

Come hell or high water, Ronaldo will score goals and win individual prizes; whether or not his team win collective honours along the way is a secondary consideration. If Real Madrid win trophies then it is a useful upshot of Ronaldo scoring.

But, for all his individual glory, for all his brilliance, and for all the absolute certainty that he is the best player in the world, Ronaldo’s personal quest for perfection remains his curse.


VIDEO: Ronaldo snubs Platini at Club World Cup presentation

The Portugal star remains on frosty terms with the Uefa president following his remarks on the Ballon d’Or earlier this year

VIDEO: Ronaldo snubs Platini at Club World Cup presentation

Cristiano Ronaldo remains less than impressed with Michel Platini’s comments on the Ballon d’Or if Saturday’s scenes in Marrakech are anything to go by.

The Uefa president incensed Real Madrid in October when he went public with his views on why the Portugal star should not retain his individual prize in January.

“I don’t vote for the Ballon d’Or but, in principle, [in a World Cup year] it’s a player who has produced big performances in the tournament who wins it,” he told beIn Sports. “So, it should be a German this year.”

Despite going on to describe Ronaldo as one of the world’s finest players, the Madrid star is clearly still rankled by Platini’s comments.

Having earlier shaken hands with Fifa chief Sepp Blatter – with whom Ronaldo became embroiled in a war of words during the Ballon d’Or race last year – the 29-year-old can be seen giving Platini the cold shoulder during the presentation ceremony after the Club World Cup final.

Madrid were crowned world champions after a 2-0 win, while Ronaldo picked up the Silver Ball for his performances during the tournament, with team-mate Sergio Ramos winning the individual prize ahead of him.

Watch video here:http: //

Bale: We’ve shown we’re the best team in the world

The Welshman was on target in his third final of 2014 as Real Madrid claimed the Club World Cup in Morocco

Bale: We've shown we're the best team in the world

Gareth Bale hailed Real Madrid as the best team on the planet after the Welshman’s goal helped them seal Club World Cup glory against San Lorenzo in Marrakech.

Bale struck in the second half to double Real’s lead after Sergio Ramos had opened the scoring against the reigning South American champions.

It crowned an incredible year for Carlo Ancelotti’s side, who helped themselves to four titles in all – the Copa del Rey, the Champions League, the European Super Cup and now the Club World Cup.

“For us it’s a massive tournament to win and to show we’re the best team in the world is amazing,” Bale told Goal.

“It’s been a great year all round. Winning the Champions League, winning the Super Cup, winning the Copa del Rey and now this, it’s been a great year and hopefully there’s more to come.”

Real are on course to reign supreme in La Liga this season, currently holding a one-point advantage over Barcelona having played one game fewer.

They are also favourites to win the Champions League when the competition resumes in February, with Schalke lying in wait in the last 16.

“We need to keep concentrating on each and every game and hopefully we’ll achieve what we know we can,” Bale added.

Ramos beats Ronaldo to Club World Cup Golden Ball

The Real Madrid defender was named the tournament’s best player on Saturday, ahead of his team-mate and Auckland City captain Ivan Vucelich

Ramos beats Ronaldo to Club World Cup Golden Ball

Sergio Ramos has been awarded the Golden Ball for the best player at the Club World Cup, beating team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Spain international scored his second goal of the tournament with a towering header on Saturday against San Lorenzo as Real Madrid recorded a 2-0 win in the final in Marrakech.

Ramos’s performances were good enough to see him named as the tournament’s best player after the match, with Ronaldo finishing in second place. Auckland City captain Ivan Vucelich was handed the Bronze Ball; after guiding his side to a stunning victory in the third-place play-off.

Ramos, who admitted afterwards that the muscular problem he picked up in the semi-final against Cruz Azul meant he should not really have played, was delighted to see his side round off 2014 with another trophy.

“It’s true, I risked my injury playing today, but I wanted to play this match,” said the 28-year-old afterwards.

“This Club World Cup was hard to win for Real Madrid and we are so happy right now.

“I’m so proud to have helped with those goals, but this is a success for the whole squad.”

Inspired by Barcelona and the envy of Madrid – the magical story of Auckland City and their superfan

The champions of Oceania are looking to cause an upset in Wednesday’s Club World Cup opener, and one fan has made the trip across 13 time zones in the hope of witnessing history

Inspired by Barcelona and the envy of Madrid – the magical story of Auckland City and their superfan

If Real Madrid were ever to qualify for four successive editions of the Fifa Club World Cup it would likely cause ripples across the sporting globe.

Such a feat would require a run of dominance only ever seen before when the Blancos ruled the roost during the European Cup’s formative years in the 1950s.

There is a club who can boast such a record, yet only a small percentage of the world’s football fans really know anything about them. And one of that select band has travelled to Rabat in the hope of an historic new chapter being written in his own footballing love story.

Auckland City take on Moghreb Tetouan on Wednesday in the opening match of the 2014 Club World Cup carrying the moniker of the competition’s most experienced outfit. This is the semi-professional side’s sixth visit to the exclusive event, with their dominance of Oceania having made them annual guests in the last four years.

And if they are to add to their two wins in the 2009 edition, Edward Lyons will have some interesting calls to make. Having year-end reports to file for his bosses at the University of Auckland Business School, and with City having lasted only a single game in each of their last three trips to the Club World Cup, it would have been easy for the 50-year-old to stay at home and watch his local club from the sofa.

Instead he has nailed his colours to the mast.

“I’ve got a flight home booked on Friday,” he tells Goal. “But if we win then I’ll be on the phone to work saying that my year-end reports can be done by laptop. I’ll be staying on.”

His is a unique position in the modern game. While many of the bigger clubs in football seem to keep fans at an increasingly greater distance from day-to-day operations, Auckland welcome Edward and others like him as one of them.

“It’s rare, but this club is more like a family,” he continues. “After the game you’ll go upstairs and have a drink with the players if you want, so there’s not much distance between the players and yourself.

“You can say to them ‘That was a terrible tackle’ or ‘How’s your shoulder?’ or just chat to them. I feel part of the club. I don’t feel I’m put aside while the club goes in another direction, we are just one and the same really. We’re part of the same family.”

It is the kind of close-knit atmosphere which keeps Spanish coach Ramon Tribulietx happy despite the increased exposure generated by constant success in Oceania.

“We all know each other! There’s a group of fans that will be singing and cheering during the games back home and I know most of them, we normally have a chat,” explains Tribulietx. “It is a family club, and that is probably the difference between us and the big clubs.

“You can’t really get to know the fans elsewhere. When things don’t go so well at a big club you probably feel a little bit alone as a coach, but at this club you always feel that you’ve got someone backing you up and that makes a big difference.”

Tribulietx | Spanish influence has helped rack up the trophies in Oceania

Clearly Tribulietx’s background, which includes three years coaching in Spain’s Segunda B division, has had its effect. He reprimands his players when they attempt long balls, a regular trait in New Zealand football until the Spaniard came along and transformed the way Auckland play.

Moghreb boss Aziz El Amri has called their style “more Latin American than Australasian” while many envious onlookers have found their tactics frustrating, with opposition teams often finding it tough to win the ball off them. Think Barcelona circa 2011, but without the whole world watching.

“I played in New Zealand ages ago for Central United, the forerunner to Auckland City, so I knew the national league,” Tribulietx adds. “Then one day I was offered the chance to take on the club along with Xavi Roca, who used to play for Barcelona B and had good experience playing in the Spanish first division for Villarreal and Espanyol.

“They offered us the job as a package, with me coaching behind a manager – doing all the coaching and trying to play in a different way. I thought it was a good idea and a good project so I decided to take it.”

That project is far from a straight-forward one. As a semi-pro outfit, Auckland’s is a world in which transfer fees cannot be demanded, meaning the club is in no position to hold on to those players targeted by bigger clubs in professional leagues. And around 50 per cent of the current squad work 40 hours a week as well as training every weeknight.

Striker Ryan De Vries doubles up as an assistant for a motor safety company back home, but this is a very different week to those which earn him his regular corn.

“Yes, it’s definitely the biggest week of my career,” says the beaming 23-year-old. “It’s the pinnacle. I’m at the Club World Cup! It’s unreal!

“This is as good as it’s going to get, for now. So I guess we’ve just got to go out there, perform to our best and play not just as a team but play for each other.”

Perhaps naturally, the thoughts of potential rewards to come are not far from De Vries’ mind. But his memories of being a simple starry-eyed kid in South Africa watching the world’s best from afar lead the 23-year-old to dreams involving chance encounters with Cristiano Ronaldo rather than barrow loads of personal riches.

“It’s unreal. You watch these players on TV, you watch El Clasico and you see Ronaldo do amazing things. So to know that you’re at the same tournament as him, and you could possibly even bump into him, is unreal.”

It would take a miracle run to the final for De Vries and Auckland to face up to Ronaldo and Madrid on the football field. But superfan Edward insists he wouldn’t swap places with those supporters watching on the television back in New Zealand and elsewhere.

“I think it’s true of virtually all of football that the local fans get frustrated when nobody else is turning out to cheer on their team. Whether it’s people turning out for Arsenal rather than Barnet or whatever it is, it’s frustrating. But I think it’s just a fact. There are only going to be so many people who truly support their local area.

“To be honest I feel like I’m getting more out of it by being here and following my club, getting to know people, getting to know characters and the way they play. There are times when players come back to fans and say ‘I was thinking of giving up but I did it for you’ and you think ‘are you crazy?’ But it’s just the fact that they have some support when they’ve been having a hard time. I think sport goes two ways.”

When Auckland went for their customary walk out onto the pitch on the eve of the game on Tuesday, Edward was out there with them. On Friday he should be on a plane back to New Zealand, flying through 13 time zones for the second time in a week, but could well be doing another lap of the Stade Moulay Abdellah pitch instead.

And he truly believes the dream could materialise.

“I think we have what it takes. Maybe there’s some romance and hope amongst that, and if they don’t win then I’ll understand. But if they do, it’s going to be brilliant.

“Maybe there will be a bit of history. You can kind of feel the magic, and for me football is magic.”