Cristiano Ronaldo has had another absolutely phenomenal season for Real Madrid. In 49 appearances in all competitions thus far, the Portuguese forward has scored 50 goals and added 20 assists.
These staggering statistics are possibly made a little less staggering by the fact that Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, Ronaldo’s hated nemesis, has scored 51 goals and added 26 assists, albeit in 51 total appearances.
However, in the race for the Pichichi, given annually by Spanish sports daily Marca to La Liga’s top goal scorer, Ronaldo has the slight edge, having scored 39 goals in the league to Messi’s 38. While both players currently hold three European Golden Shoe awards -- given annually to Europe’s top goal scorer -- each, Messi has Ronaldo beat in Spain by a score of three Pichichi wins to two.
With just four La Liga games left both for Real and Barca, and with as many as seven total games left for Real and eight for Barca, the titles for Spanish and European top scorer are likely to go down to the very last game, just like the Spanish league title itself -- which is being contested by their respective teams -- probably will, too.
As we (and others) have noted before, Ronaldo is a player for whom individual accolades mean so much. It follows, then, that he desperately wants to beat Messi to the top goal scorer awards this season, both in Spain and in Europe.
Seemingly unlike Messi, who almost always plays the game with child-like joy and frequently praises his teammates when receiving individual awards, Ronaldo is frequently questioned for his attitude. His mannerisms and expressions at times suggest that he would prefer to score goals than win games. That kind of selfishness can be a big problem for a team, as any coach can attest.
Ronaldo’s selfishness has once again come into question following his antics on the field against Almeria on Wednesday. While it wasn’t the easiest three points of Real’s season, Los Blancos eventually won the match, 3-0. Late in the game, with the score at 2-0, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez supplied a cross that the sliding Alvaro Arbeloa finished into an empty net, having appeared on the scene just a fraction of a second before Ronaldo. The 30-year-old’s response was to kick the ball hard into the goal, and then, failing to congratulate either Arbeloa or Chicharito, he walked back towards the halfway line shaking his head. After all, the Portuguese has now gone three games without a goal, and Arbeloa just stole a tap-in from him.
With hundreds of cameras trained on them at all times, professional players simply can’t get away with little petulant acts like that anymore. In any event, Real players and staff are now in full damage control.
Asked about Cristiano’s reaction to the goal he scored, Arbeloa said honestly: "I'm not upset about Cristiano's gesture. It's normal that he should be angry, he didn't score and his ambition is always to score. The Pichichi trophy is at stake for him and we all understand that and try to help him."
Coach Carlo Ancelotti, meanwhile, only had this to say about the incident: “In my career, I have never had a forward that has scored 50 goals. If Cristiano does not score from here until the end of the season, I will be just as happy.”
A very diplomatic answer from a diplomatic coach.
Elsewhere, on social media, fans and critics alike expressed their (mostly negative) opinions about Ronaldo’s display. Fox Sports provided one of the best Twitter reactions, here.
Cristiano’s obsession with individual accolades highlights a growing problem for FIFA, UEFA and Europe’s biggest leagues. If FIFA is in the business of promoting fair play, etc, especially to children, how is it supposed to handle the petulant behavior of world superstars that have become overly enamored with individual rather than team prizes? How do you explain the actions of Ronaldo to your local team of eight-year olds that want to grow-up to be just like him? Sure, he’s a superstar and a fantastic player to watch and try to emulate, but his behavior is awful and a letdown for his team, which is still very much chasing two important trophies.
Maybe Jose Mourinho, Arsene Wenger et al are right: perhaps it is time to do away with the FIFA Ballon d’Or and other individual accolades in soccer. Too many people, including the players, are forgetting that this is a team game first and foremost.