Time to put criticism of Ronaldo to rest

Tim Keeble, Soccer Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Cristiano Ronaldo added the FIFA World Player of the Year Award to his list of accolades on Monday as expected, but what is mystifying is the amount of resentment that the Portuguese star still receives from players and fans around the world.

Ronaldo was far and away the best player on the planet last season, scoring an impressive 42 goals in all competitions for Manchester United, which captured both the Premiership and Champions League titles.

However, the results of a recent poll on FIFA.com asking voters to choose the World Player of the Year show just how many detractors Ronaldo has.

Barcelona's Lionel Messi received a whopping 48 percent of the vote, compared to just 36 percent for Ronaldo, which is absolutely ridiculous.

Messi did have a great year for Barcelona, as he helped Argentina win a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics this past summer, and while he will almost assuredly win the award at some point in his career, this is not the year.

Cristiano Ronaldo was far and away the best player on the planet last season.
Ronaldo's credentials are far too superior to make an argument against him based solely on numbers, so critics will point to the same tired complaints we have been hearing about Ronaldo for years.

The first centers around his general behavior on the field as opposing players, coaches and fans have taken issue with Ronaldo's propensity to go down easily when he receives any sort of contact.

While this accusation may have some truth to it, you would be hard-pressed to find a modern player who doesn't go down a bit easy from time to time, if it will benefit his team.

Ripping Ronaldo for diving would be like singling out LeBron James for traveling. Everyone in the league does it, and it has become almost part of the game, as regrettable as it may be.

There are times when Ronaldo will act out after a hard challenge, sitting on the ground with his arms raised and a look on his face like a schoolboy who just had his lunch money stolen.

Some people might view this as a spoiled star getting upset about rough play, but in reality he takes more abuse from opposing players than almost anybody else in the league.

He is on the receiving end of a number of crunching tackles almost every game, and after a while it has to become just plain frustrating.

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is well aware of the harsh treatment his midfielder receives, and Ferguson wonders how other players would react if given the same amount of abuse.

"Having seen some of the criticism of Ronaldo, I wonder how many of these people would be able to take it and keep walking down the street if someone was hitting them on the head with a baton," Ferguson told The Times. "How many times can you take it?

The other argument that critics like to make is that the 23-year-old rarely shows up in big games.

They point to the fact that he missed a penalty kick in United's first-leg draw with Barcelona in the semifinals of the Champions League, and that he also failed to score in the penalty shoot-out against Chelsea in the Champions League final.

However, it was Ronaldo's goal in the first half against Chelsea that gave the Red Devils the lead in the final, and he also scored an important first goal at Roma in the quarterfinals of the competition that put United on its way to the next round.

Some try to argue that he was outplayed by Messi in the semifinal round, but the fact that Barcelona failed to score in either game is a pretty good indication that Messi did nothing spectacular.

Ronaldo's international career has yet to include any major victories, but as a teenager, he played a big role in Portugal advancing to the final of Euro 2004, even though the team came up very small against Greece in that game.

Portugal made an appearance in the semifinals of the 2006 World Cup, and although they lost to France, Ronaldo had to be considered one of the best players on the field, including Zinedine Zidane.

Ronaldo's performance in this past summer's Euro 2008 competition was not great, and Portugal was bounced in the quarterfinals, but you also have to remember that he had ankle surgery shortly after the tournament.

He may seem too cocky for some, he might appear to be a spoiled superstar to others, but there is no doubt that Cristiano Ronaldo was the best player in the world in 2008, and nothing should take away from that.

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Contact Tim Keeble at tkeeble@sportsnetwork.com
Contact Brian Westfall at bwestfall@sportsnetwork.com
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