Earlier this month, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo became the latest victim of this global disaster when he was diagnosed with Covid-19 while on international duty with Portugal.
Ronaldo’s absence has been already keenly felt, as Juventus have stuttered in recent weeks, stumbling to draws against bottom ranked Crotone, minnows Hellas Verona and most recently, losing to Barcelona at home for the first time in the club’s history. All this comes as Juventus' Serie A dominance looks like it will be tested this season.
Meanwhile, the Portuguese star has been more intent on making his presence known off the pitch, and it has not gone down well with officials in his adopted nation.
On October 14, one day after he tested positive, he returned to Turin with an air ambulance and this is where the first controversy arose. Ronaldo raised the ire of Sport Minister Vincenzo Spadafora. The latter believed the Euro 2016 winner should not have been able to travel to Portugal in first place due to Juventus supposedly having a “protective bubble” and if he did leave it, then he shouldn’t have been able to return back to Turin after contracting COVID-19.
One week before, Ronaldo had left the Juventus bubble at the J Hotel where the team group was self-isolating after two members of the external staff tested positive for Covid. Ronaldo wanted to join his national team and left the J Hotel with Paulo Dybala, Juan Cuadrado, Danilo, Rodrigo Bentancur, Gigi Buffon and Merih Demiral.
Juventus informed the local ASL that notified the Prosecutor’s Office but the players only risk a €400 fine if they are found guilty.
CR7 took to Instagram to respond to Spadafora. “I’m always at home, now I’m sunbathing, also to let the days pass. I’m respecting the protocol, I did not break it, as has been said: It’s a lie,” he said.
“I returned from Portugal because my team and I made sure to comply with all the procedures. I returned to Italy by air ambulance and I have had no contact with anyone, even in Turin."
The quarrel is not over yet as Spadafora insisted Ronaldo had violated the protocol as early as five days ago.
Naturally, though, as is the case in all matters, there are always different strokes for different folks, and Ronaldo is no exception to this, so Spadafora singling out a wealthy footballer who came back to his house on an air ambulance looks more just a matter of virtue signalling and trying to make an example for weary and frustrated citizens than anything else.
That being said, one would have expected the Juventus ace after that first incident to keep a lower profile and quietly settle down in Turin to recover from illness.
His sister, Katia Averio, also got in on the act, stating on Instagram on October 14 that her brother’s positive test was a fraud and basically insinuating that his Covid diagnosis was the best example for people to believe in the virus and take care of themselves, changing their habits.
Two weeks later, it was Ronaldo himself to share a similar message as he opted to take to criticising the testing methods when he turned up positive shortly before the Bianconeri were set to take on Barcelona in the Champions League earlier this week. Not only did he condemn the methodology, he called it outright rubbish (and that’s putting it mildly).
Although he eventually dialled back on his statements – perhaps realising he’d actually gone too far this time, Minister of Agricultural Food and Forestry Policies Teresa Bellanova slammed him for his comments.
"Cristiano Ronaldo should think a little longer when he calls the tampon for the covid "bul…” she said.
"The fact that he, as a successful athlete, feels good despite the positive swab, does not mean that the virus that hit him is harmless. The obligation to be isolated serves to protect others, those who are elderly, those who are more fragile.
"It is a form of protection and respect for the community. And, I add, also towards the thousands of victims of this virus, as well as towards those who struggle between life and death, hospitalized and in intensive care."
Curiously enough, the ever-outspoken Zlatan “the Lion” Ibrahimović also caught COVID-19, but went into isolation and recovered without much fuss, and has since returned to action for AC Milan. The 39-year-old was the hero for the Rossoneri recently as Milan recorded their first Serie A win over Inter in the Derby della Madonnina in four years, and is presently this season’s Capocannoniere with six goals.
It’s not often that anyone would say that Ronaldo should take cues from Ibrahimović – after all, this is a man who not too long ago did say that a “World Cup without Zlatan isn’t worth watching” after Sweden were beaten 4-2 by Portugal in the play-offs prior to the 2014 edition, but these are indeed strange times. Not surprisingly, Ibrahimović just couldn’t help but throw a bit of ever-so subtle shade in the direction of the man who denied him the opportunity to feature in his last ever World Cup by saying that “We should all respect the rules…[because] you are not Zlatan”.
It now remains to be seen what he does next during what has been a rather unfortunate and unnecessarily eventful quarantine for the four-time Champions League winner.
Pic credit: @Cristiano on Instagram