So I was originally going to structure this as a Ronaldo v. Messi post, but when I thought about it for a moment, that seemed dumb, because this isn’t really about Messi at all. I love Messi, but that’s not the point, and if I’m going to get annoyed at people for always comparing the two, I should really avoid doing it.
I love Barcelona, but I’ve never hated a team so much that I couldn’t like anyone who played for them. That includes Real Madrid – unlike almost every other Barcelona fan on the planet, for example, I really like Sergio Ramos.
So it wasn’t the Real Madrid thing that made me dislike Ronaldo. It was just Ronaldo.
But that’s changed.
I used to dislike Ronaldo because he was a diving, selfish, petulant brat. I stand by my read on him at the time – I think he was a diving, selfish, petulant brat. The only thing worse than losing the CDR was losing it to a Ronaldo goal. (Then Sergio Ramos dropped it under a bus. Oh, Ramos. That cheered me up. See, how can Barca fans hate Ramos? He’s great.)
But it was actually that string of clasicos that the CDR final was part of that started to change my opinion of him. Amidst all the bus parking and nasty tackles and fights and all the other ugliness that came out of those cames, Ronaldo did something that stuck out to me.
He tried to play.
He wasn’t diving, not really, and he wasn’t happy with the Drogba-esk “stand over there and wait for us to boot the ball to you” role. There’s a video on yotube that showed some of the Barcelona defenders playing keep away while Ronaldo futilely ran between them trying to get the goddamn ball. He ended up throwing his arms up in disgust.
A lot of Barcelona fans delighted in that because, hey, Ronaldo is frustrated hahaha. I didn’t see it that way. I looked at that video and at those games as a whole and I saw a player who was giving it his all and was getting absolutely no support. And I respected that.
I didn’t like him, of course, not yet, not just for that, but I started to respect him a little more. It opened a door.
And since then, I’ve actually (slowly) grown to like him. Legitimately, honestly like him. It annoys me to see people dismiss him as a diver, because he really doesn’t dive much at all anymore. Like Busquets, it’s mostly just people who like his team that have noticed that he’s cleaned up his act. It annoys me to see him dismissed as a poacher when he’s really an excellent player. It annoys me to see him portrayed as this egotistical brat who is almost as focused on Messi as he is on breathing. I’m sorry, but I don’t think Ronaldo cares that much. I don’t think he lies awake at night thinking about Messi and how Messi scored three goals and he only scored two.
Now, when Ronaldo scores against Barcelona, I almost breathe a sigh of relief. Oh. At least it was one of the guys I like, and not one of those assholes. I don’t want anybody scoring, obviously, but if someone’s going to…
The Ballon d’Or is coming up, and I would like to see Messi or Iniesta win. I’m a Barcelona fan. Of course I want that. And I think that Messi and Iniesta have absolutely done enough to deserve the trophy.
But I think Ronaldo has, too. They’ve all been terrific. And while I’d rather a Barcelona player win it, I won’t weep if Ronaldo does, because he’s been an outstanding player worthy of the recognition.
Edit: My thanks to Adrian, who sent me link to the video of keepaway that I had originally mentioned but been unable to find. 🙂