THE SECRET FOOTBALLER: Man in the mirror won’t take Ronaldo to Old Trafford

At a time when the world seems to be having a nervous breakdown it’s very reassuring to note that Cristiano Ronaldo has over 53 million followers on Twitter. People still take the time to read and educate themselves.

Because he is CR7 and more famous than Jesus and Muhammad put together Cristiano’s Twitter account doesn’t include one of those staccato 160-word bios that ordinary mortals have to sweat over. (Footballer. Humanitarian. Philanthropist. Intellectual. Adonis, mine says.) but if he ever feels the need to fill in the blanks may I suggest the following: Cristiano Ronaldo. One chimp short of being football’s Michael Jackson.

It’s easy to be cynical about CR7 but I’ll confess that I’m thinking of brazenly stealing the CR7 template for my own Twitter account. For too long now I’ve been busting my brain coming up with pithy observations on the world of football all of which, frankly, go right over the heads of my loyal followers. From now on I’m Tweeting in the Cristiano style. Me eating pie. Me drinking beer. Me wearing jocks.

I flicked through CR7’s recent tweets this morning and just about the only tweet which wasn’t selling me something was a picture of Cristiano reposing on a sofa with a book in his hand. The caption read: Drinking my tea and reading my book.

Not any book. His book. Not any tea. His tea. I was spooked by the absence of brand placement in the picture and caption but it was clear that CR7 has a deep interior life, an intellectual hunger only sated by drinking his tea and reading his book and being photographed while doing it.

It’s a good thing that CR7 has time for his tea and his book because things are a bit hectic in his semi-d these days. He is waiting in during office hours in case he misses the Amazon delivery of his two new children, Eva and Mateo born by surrogate to an unknown woman who, touchingly, is said to be receiving £10 million for womb rental and delivery services. Meanwhile, CR7’s girlfriend (what first attracted you to the kooky, ego-crazed billionaire?) is allegedly sporting a baby bump and the couple are rumoured to have been consulting a top people’s clinic just for reassurance that the spawn of CR7 will be perfect in every way.

There’s CR7’s museum of all things CR7 to worry about and the nagging thought that his hometown unveiling a bust of Niall Quinn and announcing that it was handsome ole CR7 might have been part of some kind of wind-up.

As if that’s not enough bother there’s that bloody Jose Mourinho calling on the phone and texting day and night. “Can’t stop thinking of you CR7” “You complete me “ “I’m drinking tea and reading my book as well. How weird is that?”

Jose’s grounded humility. CR7’s boyish cockiness. It’s a match made in heaven. At least for the back pages which have very little to fill them at this time of the year.

How badly does CR7 really want to get back to Manchester? He loves winning medals and Ballons D’or as much as he loves himself. He is part of an historic team and plays in a league which values thought and tactics higher than blood and thunder. He has a manager who coddles him and gets a contribution out of him which makes CR7 feel valued. Does he really want to head back to Old Trafford and the endless debate about how he doesn’t track back enough blah blah? Does he want to sit in a dressing room presided over by a manager who doesn’t mind selling his own players down the river whenever it’s expedient? Does he want to be involved in another epic campaign to haul United out of the Europa league abyss? The Spanish press can be rough but does CR7 really miss the chivalry of the British tabloids?

When CR7 teases that he may be pining for a return to Manchester with it’s rain and it’s plentiful Greggs outlets is he being sincere or playing games?

Having found in Zinedine Zidane a manager who has had the wisdom to alter CR7’s game for the better in his declining years and the humility (or sense of humour) to announce that he himself was never as good a player as CR7, does it make any sense that Ronaldo would yearn to be reunited with Mourinho. The same Jose Mourinho whose smarmy face CR7 would once have rearranged if he hadn’t been held back by Real team-mates.

Of course there is the money. Ronaldo, it seems, has forgotten to pay the Spanish tax people £12.9 million. He finds it outrageous that the revenue goons should interrupt his tea drinking and book reading to shake him down for this money. He expects Real Madrid to cough up the dough. Least they could do etc etc.

Given Real’s gaudy wealth and the fact that Ronaldo is the best-paid athlete in the world with a Nike deal that will yield him $24 million per year for the rest of his life this is like two billionaire oligarchs arguing over who will pick up the tab for lunch.

If there is one flea in the ointment of CR7’s weird existence it is the little Argentinian across in Barcelona. You don’t have the be a full-time student of the life and times of CR7 to know that the existence of Lionel Messi has ruined his life. What cruel god would give CR7 his gifts of beauty and litheness and reading only to create somebody more skilled, more valuable, more likeable, and more youthful for a rival team.

CR7 is in a race to establish a legacy as the greatest player ever. He is 32 years old, has just won another Champions League, has recovered La Liga and is going to win a Ballon d’Or. CR7 is one of the two greatest footballers on the planet, two men pushing each other to new levels of the sublime in a race to be hailed the greatest of all time.

With FA Cup, League Cup and Premier League medals already in his sock drawer, does CR7 really want to spend the last three or four years of his career at Old Trafford? Three or four years is all the time he has to add more glorious campaigns and real wonder to his CV. United have shrunk since he was last there.

Does he see really England as the platform for more Champions League medals, another Ballon d’Or etc?

What matters most in CR7’s life and career is the man in the mirror.

Is that going to fade away because he is annoyed over a tax bill? With the great ones, the ego is always at the wheel. When a man feels the need to have his photo taken and tweet when he has a cup of tea and reads a book (at the same time!), that ego is still alive and steering.

Is there really room in the car for Mourinho’s monstrous self regard as well?

He loves winning medals and Ballons D’or as much as he loves himself


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