Ronaldo presents a happier face as Real celebrates

AFP
As Cristiano Ronaldo milked every last drop of his moment on the microphone at the Santiago Bernabeu, it was hard to imagine this was a player about to leave Real Madrid.
AFP

As Cristiano Ronaldo milked every last drop of his moment on the microphone at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday night, it was hard to imagine this was a player about to leave Real Madrid.

Real players were introduced one-by-one onto the podium and when Ronaldo’s moment came, a gap left after “Cristiano” for the delirious fans to fill, he predictably made the most of it.

A Portugal flag draped over his shoulders, Ronaldo pirouetted before counting out on his fingers to five, the number of Champions League titles he now owns.

He pulled out the badge on his shirt and kissed it, twice, before blowing a few more kisses to the crowd. By now they were chanting “Cristiano” and some of the Real players were joining in. Even when Marcelo, the next one out, emerged, a grinning Ronaldo strutted back down the walkway to welcome him with the pair’s familiar celebratory dance.

This Ronaldo was almost unrecognizable from the one that had, less than 24 hours before, been prickly and restless, as he insisted he could leave Real, despite the team just beating Liverpool to mark a third consecutive European triumph.

Even amid wrangling contract negotiations, a frosty relationship with president Florentino Perez, a perceived lack of support in his row with Spanish tax authorities and perhaps even jealousy over Real’s courting of Neymar, his timing was inexplicably bad.

Zinedine Zidane had summed up the mood. “I’m not thinking about that now,” the coach said.

Microphone in hand, however, Ronaldo was back at the center of things on Sunday and this time his message was different. “What can I say?” he said over the fans’ cheers. “You have given us so much love in every single match. It’s an honor to play for the biggest club in the world, that’s the truth, it’s an honor.”

As the fans roared, Real players bounced around Ronaldo, chanting “Cristiano, quedate”, “Cristiano, stay”, and soon the whole stadium was singing, too.

At euphoric events like these, there must always be a pull to draw the biggest cheer, but Ronaldo’s behavior at least suggests Real could satisfy the 33-year-old if it wants to. He reportedly seeks a new deal in line with Lionel Messi’s at Barcelona and Neymar’s at PSG.

But Perez was not impressed by Ronaldo’s posturing. “We hear the same every summer. And then nothing happens.”

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