Ronaldo and Real Madrid: The end of an eventful journey
What started out as a mere rumour and was perceived to be a PR move by Cristiano Ronaldo and his entourage to get an improved contract reached its climax sooner than expected and it is fair to say that it came as a shock to the footballing world.
According to BBC, the Portuguese forward has agreed to a 4-year contract that will see him remain at Juventus until he is 37, netting £26.57m a season in wages. The fee is rumoured to be around £93.01m for the swashbuckling forward, who will turn 34 in a few months.
Real Madrid's official statement was followed by a letter penned by Ronaldo, that said “I only have feelings of enormous gratitude for this club and for this city, I have had nine absolutely wonderful years at the club. Real Madrid has conquered my heart, and that of my family, and that is why more than ever I want to say thank you: thank you to the club, the president, the directors, my colleagues, all the staff, doctors, physios and incredible people that make everything work.
Yet, a closer look at the relationship shows that it was nothing more than an expensive marriage, that met the needs of the two parties.
Nine years ago, in 2009, Florentino Perez brought Cristiano Ronaldo from Old Trafford for a then-record sum of £80 million and unveiled him in front of 80,000 fans at the Santiago Bernabeu, thus beginning a long and successful marriage between two dominant forces in world football.
For Florentino Perez, the signing was about satisfying his immense pride and stamping Real Madrid's stature as a footballing powerhouse. On the other hand, for Cristiano Ronaldo, the club provided the perfect platform to cement his status as one of the best players in the world. Even as Ronaldo's goalscoring prowess and the ability to decide games never dwindled, Perez was always on the lookout for his golden boy.
On 1 September 2013, the Spanish club signed Gareth Bale, for a fee of £89.2 million, signalling that Real Madrid was not a one-man show, and certainly was not Ronaldo's.
In the end, it all worked out for the best as Bale, along with Benzema complemented Ronaldo splendidly giving birth to the famed BBC trio that wrecked havoc amongst the defenders. The on-field success of his players was never quite enough as Perez continued his galactico policy, bringing the 2014 World cup's Colombian hero, James Rodriguez for a transfer fee of £63 million.
The move was an indication of Perez's urge to move on, or more so, his attitude of fixing things that weren't broken in the first place. Despite all the shuffling of personnel around him, tax case haunting him off-field, Ronaldo's returns on the field were incredible, with his influence growing, year after year. The real conundrum began when Ronaldo entered his 30's what is commonly perceived to be the time of decline for a footballer. In late 2016, murmurs of Ronaldo possibly exiting Madrid were floating around. In spite of his age, Ronaldo was performing as good as ever. Even if the decline due to the age was looming, there were no signs of it, and instead ended with a contract extension on November 6, 2016, which was supposed to keep Ronaldo at the Spanish capital until 2021.
In the next two seasons, Ronaldo well into his 30's established himself as one of the finest to have graced the pitch. He was so good that he pulled back the Balon d'Or count with Lionel Messi, astonishingly levelling 5-5 after being 1-4 down at one point in his career.
But for all his success and Real Madrid's, it was never quite the 'Romantic love story' that his counterpart shares with Barcelona. At Camp Nou, Messi's success is synonymous with Barcelona. However, in Madrid, Ronaldo was merely a weapon to deliver that success. It is a fine line, one that eventually proved to be one of the deciding factors in Ronaldo leaving. While Barcelona does everything in their power to keep Lionel Messi content, Cristiano Ronaldo more often than not has had to fight and prove himself to be Real Madrid's undisputed king.
One of the main driving factors behind the exit was Real Madrid's lack of support during the tax fraud charges hurled at Ronaldo. While Lionel Messi faced a similar situation, Barcelona came out in support responding with a new contract, Ronaldo's contract promise way back in June 2017, was never met by Perez, despite a promise.
Lionel Messi is just a mere comparison to highlight how even after being equals, the former is worshipped in his club, while the Bernabeu fans have been at times, harsh on Ronaldo, subtly letting him know that Madrid will never quite be his home, like Old Trafford, where even a decade after his departure, he is hailed as a hero.
Last but not least, the ever-critical fans of Real Madrid, who cheered when he scored and jeered when he didn't, reminding him that his role was merely that of delivering trophies to their club. While Ronaldo is glorified as a national hero who led them to the Euro championship in 2016, at Madrid, he was seen as a selfish player for whom nothing mattered more than his goal tally. He seldom wore the arm-band and was not seen as the leader with his compatriots Sergio Ramos, Marcelo taking that role.
In his part, Cristiano Ronaldo could have certainly done without all the shenanigans over the years, like threatening to leave, time and time again, only to end up staying put, for a fatter paycheck.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was his statement, in Kiev after Real Madrid's 3rd successive Champions League title when he said, “Over the next few days I will give a reply to the fans, they have always been on my side,” while still on the pitch, just minutes after the win, completely taking the spotlight away from a breathtaking Gareth Bale performance and a historic feat achieved by Real Madrid.
Ronaldo's hunger to stay at the top, and in the spotlight, at times at the expense of his own team-mates and club, is not an attitude that Perez would put up with, but had to grin and bear because of the enormous success that Cristiano brought to the club. But the long, nagging conundrum turned into a no-brainer for Perez, when Juventus came knocking with a 100 million offer, for a player who turns 34 in February.
Ronaldo's story is one about how two parties could benefit so much from each other, without necessarily falling in love with each other, a rare case in football. But here, both Florentino Perez and Cristiano Ronaldo very well knew that their tale does not have to be a glorified love affair in order to get what they wanted. Theirs was an arranged marriage that served each other's purpose, perfectly.
Now as Ronaldo prepares for a new chapter, Real Madrid look to have gained significantly for a player, for all his brilliance is still in the twilight of his career. A sum that would prove significant as Perez goes hunting for his 'Next galactico'.
As for Ronaldo, he goes to a club enriched with history and more importantly whose fans will treat him like their own, just like how they did, when he scored that bicycle kick against them in the Champions League.
All things said, Ronaldo is one of the greatest players to have ever graced the football field and undoubtedly, the greatest to don the Royal white jersey of Real Madrid. As he finally gets out of this arranged marriage, he could embark on a true love story with the Old Lady!