x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Ronaldo's temper his big weakness

Vilified for impulsive and childish actions, the red-carded striker must gain greater self-control, even if it is in reaction to constant provocation like he did against Malaga.

Pompous, petulant, perma-tanned, posturing, popinjay. These were some of the less charitable assessments of Cristiano Ronaldo's talents when he left Manchester United for Real Madrid last summer. The descriptions were soaked in envy that United's best player was turning his back on the club where he had thrived, but there are elements of truth in every word. Ronaldo's self-assured arrogance was viewed as pompous, yet it surely propelled him to his status of the best player in the world by 2008. His posturing was part of his appeal, the absolute belief in his own ability to destroy opponents. It also made him a pantomime figure - a hero to his supporters and villain to his detractors.

The tan? Ronaldo's vanity has been well noted, yet off the field he has been popular with teammates wherever he has played and often showed a human side with the young and disadvantaged supporters of the clubs for which he has played. Given the demands placed on Ronaldo (Real get around 600 requests for individual interviews with him every month), he cannot be all things to all people, but he deals with pressure well.

His petulance is one aspect which continues to detract from his game. He is often targeted by opposing players who want to nullify Real's most potent weapon, both physically and verbally. More often than not, Ronaldo does what he does best - picks himself up from a dreadful tackle and dusts himself down. Or he responds with a cutting remark of his own. One opposing player was stunned to be told by Ronaldo that he was the ugliest person he had encountered in his career.

Ronaldo usually lets his talent do the talking. But there are times when he rises to the bait. Malaga were one such team who targeted Ronaldo on Sunday night. Struggling at the wrong end of the Primera Liga and set to play against a Real team that had won every home game in the league so far this season, their tactics amounted to frustrating Ronaldo. He responded magnificently, by scoring both of Real's goals in a 2-0 win which kept them five points behind the leaders Barcelona. Both goals came in a short four-minute, first-half burst which justified the admission fee alone. That is why Ronaldo was bought - to break down even the most obstinate opponents. He is undoubtedly Real's star and has been an unquestionable success since becoming the most expensive player in the world last summer, his 15 goals so far made all the more remarkable by the fact that he missed 10 weeks of the season to injury.

Yet Ronaldo proved to be his own worst enemy. Real were cruising to victory in the second half when he tried to spin away from the overly close attention of Malaga defender Patrick Mtiliga in his own half. As he tussled with the Dane, Ronaldo swung his arm and caught Mtiliga in the face to earn a straight red card and leave Real with 10 men for the last 20 minutes. Ronaldo described the decision as a disgrace. "I did not hurt him," he said, "I had bad luck to connect with his nose, but it was an accident."

Ronaldo was wrong. The Malaga president, Fernando Sanz, naturally, did not agree. "He [Ronaldo] should not have held his hands up in innocence, but he should have said sorry to our player for breaking his nose." Vilified in Spain's media for such impulsive and childish actions, Ronaldo must gain greater self-control, even if it is in reaction to constant provocation. There will be far bigger tests than Malaga at home for Real this season and Ronaldo not only needs to be around to play in them, but he also needs to eliminate the flaws in his temperament, if not in his football.