x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Cristiano Ronaldo's woe highlights common complaint at Real Madrid

The reasons for the Portuguese star's unhappiness at the Bernabeu are several, writes Duncan Castles, but there is a common theme to many.

Cristiano Ronaldo's future with Real Madrid is unclear following the player's public admission of unhappiness
Cristiano Ronaldo's future with Real Madrid is unclear following the player's public admission of unhappiness

How can an individual whose basic salary is €10.5 million (Dh47.25m) after tax, who can earn the same sum again in commercial income, be sad about his financial situation? How indeed?

There is a glaring disconnect in the narrative disseminated to explain the Cristiano Ronaldo blues.

"I'm sad, when I don't celebrate goals it's because I'm not happy." said Ronaldo after scoring the first two goals in Real Madrid's 3-0 defeat of Granada last Sunday. "It's a professional thing. Real Madrid know why I'm not happy."

Those words were immediately interpreted as a demand for more money. Ronaldo, we were told by the Madrid press, was unhappy that his Madrid contract had been outstripped by the €20m net Anzhi Makhachkala pay Samuel Eto'o, and yearned for a wage that reflected his status as the world's best player.

"He wants more money," said Alfredo Relano, editor of one of Madrid's two grand sports newspapers Diario AS. "A while ago he was talking about a contract for life. But the price of a superstar has gone up after all the goals he has scored and after all Madrid have won."

Also briefed from within the Bernabeu, Marca pushed the same line. The rival publication ran a table of top footballers' salaries that placed Ronaldo 10th behind Eto'o, Zlatan Ibramihovic, Wayne Rooney, Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero and others. It did not matter that Marca's numbers were all over the place (Rooney errantly ahead of all Manchester City salaries and the Premier League's best paid player, Carlos Tevez, not even listed), the point remained the same. Cristiano was crying about cash.

None of this served to lighten Ronaldo's mood. On Tuesday evening he took to Twitter to respond.

"That I am feeling sad and have expressed this sadness has created a huge stir," Ronaldo wrote. "I am accused of wanting more money, but one day it will be shown that this is not the case. At this point, I just want to guarantee to the Real Madrid fans that my motivation, dedication, commitment and desire to win all competitions will not be affected. I have too much respect for myself and for Real Madrid to ever give less to the club than all I am capable of. Abrazos [hugs] to all Madridistas."

The contract Ronaldo signed after Manchester United sold him to Madrid for £80 million in the summer of 2009 runs until 2015 when he will be 30. Austerity-hit Spain's rising tax rates are not an issue, its terms stipulate net pay. Ronaldo has not been offered an extension by Madrid, and, it is understood, would not sign one now even if they did. The reasons for his unhappiness are several, but there is a common theme to many.

The tipping point for Sunday's public display of disillusion was Andres Iniesta's election as Uefa's Best Player in Europe three days previously. After a season in which Ronaldo scored 46 goals in 38 games as Real Madrid ended Barcelona's hegemony over La Liga, the Portuguese ended up two journalists votes adrift of Iniesta, who is generally considered to have followed an unexceptional domestic campaign with an excellent Euro 2012.

There is no doubt that Barcelona place more value on such individual prizes than Madrid. The Catalans have a strategy for acquiring them. Starting with Joan La Porta and continuing with Sandro Rosell, their presidents are ever present at football's grand events. Their principal players - Iniesta, Xabi and Lionel Messi - publicly push for each other to win what have turned into global popularity contests.

At Madrid, Ronaldo has been blocked from granting interviews to important European publications while a group of teammates that includes Xabi Alonso, Alvaro Arbeloa and Marcelo who share media representation with Iker Casillas have been promoting the goalkeeper's candidacy for Fifa's World Player of the Year award. If Madrid doesn't push for its best player to be recognised as such, how can others?

It is symptomatic of a club that fails to shelter its most important performers. Tired of the club's factionalism and resistance to change, Jose Mourinho took a decision to leave Madrid midway through last season. Though he later resolved to continue as manager, frustration with its operations remains.

Madrid's supporters almost never sing Ronaldo's name. At one point last season they jeered and whistled their leading scorer, behaviour senior club figures then endorsed. "The people in the crowd are the ones who pay, and they are always right," said Alfredo Di Stefano, Madrid's honorary president.

Ronaldo contrasts all this with the support he received at Manchester United. He recalls the protection from Sir Alex Ferguson and knows that Old Trafford still voices his song. It is not the most expedient of approaches, but Ronaldo is not a man to constantly keep feelings to himself. And for now there is a feeling that he will not be a Madrid player in a year's time.


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