Cristiano Ronaldo: Angel or demon?
Eight months after Real Madrid confirmed the world record signing of Cristiano Ronaldo, the £80 million man has attracted as much criticism as praise.
Ronaldo is suffering from being a talent under pressure. Despite the great performances he has produced in Madrid - scoring 15 goals in 16 games in all competitions - he is losing control in attempting to justify his transfer fee and convincing people that he is not inferior to Lionel Messi, the man who deposed him as FIFA World Player of the Year in December.
His continued concern to display his muscular physique and angry responses to any setbacks demonstrate his anxiety to succeed immediately. His most recent controversial episode - in which he received a red card for catching Malaga's Patrick Mtiliga in the face - has cost Ronaldo a two-game suspension and he will be sorely missed by Madrid. General manager Jorge Valdano has looked to defend the club's star summer acquisition.
"It is difficult to control the personality of a player like him," Valdano said. "It is his personality. He enters the pitch with overexcitement and that is also why he is able to change the game." And while Real lament the punishment, Cristiano claims injustice: "I cannot make any movement. I touch a rival and it is a red card."
That is the reality of one of the most celebrated players in the world: his ferocious competitiveness and explosive acceleration can be manifested negatively in his actions.
In 12 La Liga games he has been sent off twice, already half the number of dismissals he suffered during six seasons at Manchester United. But he has only received a direct red on three occasions during his career. The first time was on January 14, 2006, against Manchester City following a lunge at Andy Cole. The second came on August 15, 2007, for a headbutt on Portsmouth's Richard Hughes and the third was the Malaga incident.
In Spain, Ronaldo has so far been unable to demonstrate quite the same catalogue of goals, dribbles and tricks that so enamoured the Old Trafford crowd, even if his prolific record is impressive. In La Liga he does not enjoy the same space and the game is constantly interrupted. But even despite these expected adaptation problems, Ronaldo is beginning to write his own story in Madrid, giving a new dimension to their attack and making them once again the most talked-about club in world football.
The Portuguese forward is the paradigm of the new galacticos and Florentino Perez's new and pretentious adventure to restore the club to former glories. But for now, Barcelona remain top of the Primera Liga table and Madrid still look like a project in construction, with Ronaldo remaining a divisive figure.