Real Madrid finally got their first win of the Primera Division season, Sunday, and the Cristiano Ronaldo brace that propelled the champions to the three points at home to Granada took the Portugal captain’s tally for the club to 150 goals from 149 matches.
Ronaldo didn’t celebrate the achievement, however, and in a post-match scrum with reporters outside the Madrid dressing room he explained why.
“I’m sad because of a professional issue, and the club know why. That’s why I didn’t celebrate the goals—because I’m not happy,” he said, adding, “The people [at the club] know why [I’m unhappy].”
The outburst, wrote Spanish daily Marca, was like “a bombshell detonated in the Bernabéu mixed zone,” and a game of speculation immediately kicked off as to why Ronaldo was so suddenly out of sorts.
Not surprisingly, the most prevalent theory involves money. When he joined Real Madrid from Manchester United in 2009 Ronaldo signed a contract tying him to the Spanish giants until 2015. Lately he’s been trying to get the deal restructured and extended a further three years, and with talks having stalled over the summer he may simply be trying to gain leverage.
It’s also worth pointing out that he didn’t find Madrid’s treatment of Kaká during the last transfer period to be in particularly good taste. Ronaldo and Kaká are close friends, and when manager José Mourinho attempted to freeze the Brazilian out of the side last month he may well have rubbed his talisman the wrong way.
Finally, there is Ronaldo’s well-known obsession with being loved. The 27-year-old is thought to be outside a clique made up of other core players at the club, and his relationship with the Madrid fans has rarely been one of mutual adoration.
Just last January, when Ronaldo was thought to be upset with what he felt was a lack of affection from the club’s supporters, Madrid captain Iker Casillas offered a rather cryptic explanation of the situation, saying, “Cristiano Ronaldo is a very competitive player who always tries hard and wants to do his best. People will always ask a lot of him because of the sort of player he is… The Bernabeu crows is very demanding, and that’s a good thing.”
Whatever the reason for his unhappiness, Ronaldo made his feelings clear to Madrid president Florentino Pérez and general director José Angel Sanchez during a private meeting on Saturday. So “the people at the club” do, indeed, know why their star player is troubled, and the club’s actions over the coming weeks will provide clues as to what’s really going on.
Already, Kaká has come out with a handful of positive statements, saying that he’s happy at Real Madrid and is looking on this season as a “new era” in his career. Read into that what you will.
But it’s worth remembering that Ronaldo has never been far from an emotional eruption. In addition to his complaints about fan support that prompted Casillas’ intervention, there was the time in 2011 when he expressed his displeasure with Mourinho’s tactics, saying, “I don’t like it, but I have to adapt to what is asked of me. This is the way it is.”
Then there was the famous television interview in 2008 when he referred to himself as a “modern slave,” following-up on comments made by FIFA president Sepp Blatter about the tight grip football clubs hold on their players. With United at the time, he was agitating for a move to Real Madrid.
Other transfer windows: Monday was a good reminder that Friday’s transfer deadline didn’t apply across the board. Raul Meireles, who joined Chelsea last summer from Liverpool, moved to Fenerbahce for £12 million three days after the English transfer window closed. (For those keeping track, that’s £34 million in transfer fees paid for Meireles since 2010.)
Article 6 of the FIFA document “Regulation on the Status and Transfer of Players” says, “Players may only be registered during one of the two annual registration periods fixed by the relevant association,” and just when those periods occur can differ from country to country. Also, the “registration period” only applies to the club doing the signing.
But the biggest piece of business on Monday was conducted by Zenit St. Petersburg, who doled out approximately €50 million for Porto forward Hulk. Zenit, the Russian Premier League Champions, are also putting the finishing touches on a €20 million swoop for Benfica midfielder Axel Witsel.
The Maicosuel: The past few days have seen two high-profile incidents of failed “Panenka” style penalty attempts—the kind Andrea Pirlo so artfully pulled off against England at Euro 2008.
Robin van Persie’s dreadful effort against Southampton on Sunday looked like it may have cost Manchester United the match before the Dutchman made amends with a late brace that completed his hat-trick. But the worst of the two took place in Udine, where Udinese midfielder Maicosuel’s absolutely dreadful Panenka impression sent his side crashing out of the Champions League to Braga.
In the aftermath Italian football pundit Susy Campanale (Eurosport, Football Italia) suggested all failed Panenkas going forward be known as “Maicosuels,” which may well end up being the poor boy’s most definitive contribution to football in his career. But be honest, how many of you know who Anton Panenka is, anyway?
Slap on the wrist: Alan Pardew’s apology after shoving an official was heartfelt and sincere, but that doesn’t change the fact that his punishment should have been far more severe than a two-match touchline ban and £20,000 fine. Premier League managers have been known to serve much longer bans for remarks made to the press, nevermind physical altercations in the technical area. The FA should be doing all it can to protect its officials.
Giampaolo Pozzo: The Udinese owner’s cries of poverty are getting old—not that they ever taken seriously, anway. It doesn’t take an accountant to figure out that had Pozzo held onto just one of Kwadwo Asamoah and Mauricio Isla and retained some of the players he sent on loan to the other clubs he owns (Watford and, in particular, Granada) his side would likely be playing in the Champions League group stage this month, thus earning more money than his in-and-out transfer scheme could ever make.
Tactics: Dieter Hecking got them spot on against Borussia Dortmund, and as a result his Nurnberg side were able to harass and harry their way to a draw with the champions. Nurnberg, it’s worth pointing out, were one of the best defensive sides in the Bundesliga last season and the central defensive partnership of Per Nilsson and Timm Klose was a major reason why. The two were magnificent once again on Saturday.
Michu: Who says you need a full season to fully adapt to the Premier League? Michu, who arrived at Swansea this summer from Rayo Vallecano, has hit the ground running at his new club, scoring four goals in the first three matches of the season. He bagged 17 in all competitions for Rayo last term and for £2 million was one of the best pickups of the transfer window.
Follow Jerrad Peters on Twitter @peterssoccer