Ask almost anyone who watched Cristiano Ronaldo leave Mestalla in tears last week and they’ll tell you it was an utterly-absurd decision to send off the Juventus forward, given he barely pulled Jeison Murillo’s hair. However, not everyone felt that way. Barcelona-supporting Mundo Deportivo instead felt its former rival had it coming, explaining ‘after 20 identified aggressions wearing the Portugal and Real Madrid shirt, Ronaldo was sent off on his Champions League debut.’ It begs the question – is the No 7 emotionally fragile?
From his passionate goal celebrations and desperately throwing his arms about from the sidelines in the Euro 2016 Final to breaking down in the centre-circle after winning Champions Leagues, Ronaldo is a man who wears his heart on his sleeve and isn’t afraid to show his sensitivity to the world. However, his tendency to show emotion has attracted criticism over the years, with internet trolls quick to add a ‘Y’ on to his CR7 nickname and some misreading it as narcissism.
When analysing what happened against Valencia, it’s worth slipping into Ronaldo’s shoes. As the world’s reigning best player, having just signed for Juve in an Italian-record deal and debuting for the Bianconeri in a competition he has become synonymous with, the 33-year-old was undoubtedly fired up for the occasion. Yet after taking so long – by his sky-high standards – to break his duck in Serie A, it also meant he risked letting his emotions take hold, to the point he left himself vulnerable to a moment of madness.
Unfortunately for Ronaldo, with the pressure of expectation weighing on his shoulders, he allowed the opportunistic Murillo to get into his psyche. What followed was a dramatic display of tears as the former Madrid star appeared to cry uncontrollably. Whether it was show of disgust at the decision or himself for falling into the trap, the general consensus of those without affiliations for Ronaldo or Juve – rightly or wrongly – was that the five-time Ballon d’Or was acting like a petulant child.
The incident should have provoked more of a serious debate on VAR being implemented in the Champions League, but the Press preferred to have a field day. Madrid-based Marca, once the attacker’s biggest fan, went as far as stating he had ‘kicked Murillo off the ball’ and that his camp was feeling ‘persecuted’ by UEFA as a result of his dismissal. Tuttosport and Corriere dello Sport went further, writing how the ex-Manchester United ace no longer had the ‘protection’ given to him by Los Blancos.
What also went amiss was respect for Ronaldo’s character. Some would say Mundo Deportivo’s claim that he got away with 20 aggressive episodes as a Madrid player said more about his old club than him, while the Portuguese was a moving target throughout his nine-year spell in La Liga. The early signs are that in Italy, his duels with defences will be more professional and less theatrical. Indeed, fate would have his first red card as a Juve player come against a Spanish team – and a former Inter defender in Murillo.
In the meantime, Ronaldo chose not to dwell on the disappointment, blasting in the winner against Frosinone on Sunday and not holding back in his celebration. The No 7 may or may not attend Monday’s FIFA gala in London, where The Best Men’s Player will be crowned, but to answer the question – Cristiano isn’t emotionally fragile. Rather, emotion is what fuels his engine.