If you want everyone to look at you, you had better be worth it.
Cristiano Ronaldo was adoring himself too much to consider his Champions League final goal from the penalty spot was mere icing on the cake. But while this chapter of club success was complete, his season is not. The World Cup could still bring him down if he’s not careful.
In behaving like that in Lisbon, shirt off, simian gestures, grabbing the spotlight from more deserving team mates, he has drawn a target on himself.
Before his narcissistic Lisbon love-in I could have found a certain sympathy for Ronaldo, attempting to take an average Portugal side to the latter stages of the tournament.
But with his ghastly posing and posturing it reminded me that he hasn’t yet enjoyed a great World Cup. I’ve always felt Messi has to have a great, defining World Cup to threaten Pele and Maradona on the list of all-time greats. But perhaps this goes for Ronaldo too.
Let’s give credit where it’s due first. Respectfully, with shirts on.
Cristiano Ronaldo is an incredible player. One of two incredible talents to have lit up football for the past decade.
This season he scored 51 goals in 47 games for Real Madrid, and it’s not as if this is form rather than class. He has been a goal machine for many years in Manchester and Madrid, possessing everything a special player needs and considerably more.
In the past few months he has won the Ballon D’Or, the Golden Boot and the Champions League, for the second time. And yes it was him that won the big trophy for Real more than any other player, with a record-breaking and phenomenal 17 goals in the competition.
Ha has appeared to accept the arrival of Gareth Bale without sulking or an adverse effect on form, quite the opposite, and his play can be anything but selfish. A great creator as well as finisher.
But while he’s incredible in and out of the box he’s not the sharpest pencil in the box is he?
What was going through his mind in Lisbon? No amount of adrenalin can account for something that was self-adulation, not unrefined joy.
Did he not realise how close Real were to a defeat they can hardly have complained about? Did he not realize how mediocre his performance was on the night? The night that really mattered. (Please spare me the line about playing through injury. Players who are properly injured don’t ‘play through injury’, they sit in the stands wistfully).
Did he care he had been saved by a quite brilliant header from Ramos, their semi-final matchwinner too. Did he not consider running to Ramos? Or to accept that 4-1 flattered him, flattered his team, was almost embarrassing in its distortion of the 120 minute truth?
If he’d done it after the hat-trick that took Portugal into the World Cup, in the play-off against Sweden, it would be more understandable, if a little vulgar. That was down to him. His brilliance won the match, if he lacked the humility to temper his celebrations fine. But he let himself down in Lisbon.
After the game he spoke to some of the reporters around the stadium like they were something on his shoe. You may have seen this on You Tube. Charming.
Maybe Blatter was on to something with his impression at the Oxford Union. I wrote at the time it was disrespectful and unnecessary. But it turns out it was entirely accurate based on the Champions League final, even visionary!
And now there are more than a few people who’d like to see him fall from grace in Brazil. I’m torn. I want to see great players at the peak of the powers giving us great memories. But I’m not sure I can stomach more of his stomach, six-pack and all.
His World Cups so far may not have been disastrous, but they are hardly the stuff of FIFA folklore.
In 2006 in Germany he managed one goal in six games, part of a much better Portugal side (than the 2014 crop) which reached the semi-finals.
Four years ago in South Africa, he was again restricted to one solitary goal in a campaign that was ended by Spain in the last 16. I though he had a decent World Cup, arguably the best player in all three of their group games (he’s always the best player on paper but demonstrated it on the turf).
And yet, the most vivid World Cup memory of this great player came from an act of indecency. The wink which followed his contribution in Wayne Rooney’s quarter-final sending-off. What a way to treat a club team-mate. He was booed by the crowd in the semi-final but the fact he was forgiven by United fans says everything you already knew about football, and club loyalty.
Portugal found 2014 qualification a struggle despite Ronaldo’s weighty contribution and could have done with a far easier group draw. Germany, the USA and Ghana lie in wait. Tough group. And yet I fancy them to get through with Ronaldo the key. Where he takes them after that will be intriguing.
If he does achieve in the early stages, he might still have to fight off an accusation from his critics, borrowed from cricket. He’s sometimes called a ‘flat track bully’, someone who torments the opposition when they are inferior and the elements are in his favour. It’s an insult that’s almost certainly unfair on the whole, but it’s the tantalising element of truth that keeps it in use. A winning goal against one of the giants of the world game may be a touch overdue and would help dispel that barb.
On the same day at European football’s great showpiece, European rugby had its final too. Comparing players from the sports is often futile, one-eyed and over-simplified.
But this comparison was too stark to ignore. Jonny Wilkinson, the ultimate team player, produced a perfect performance in his penultimate game to ensure Toulon won the match against Saracens. Five kicks from five, immaculate in his general play. Everything he did was with dignity. After the game he deflected praise. He called himself a ‘fraud’ such was the ‘help’ from other players during his career.
A few hours later came Ronaldo’s little party piece.
Perhaps he’ll have a truly great World Cup for Portugal, and if and when they are knocked out he’ll show some of Wilkinson’s dignity and sportsmanship. Maybe he’ll keep his shirt on.
Just don’t put your own shirt on it.
Lee Wellings is the Sports Correspondent for Al Jazeera English based in London. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Lee on twitter @LeeW_Sport