Why Cristiano Ronaldo’s petulance doesn’t bother Real Madrid

It’s a now familiar scene: Cristiano Ronaldo’s teammate scores and while everyone else celebrates, he pouts because he felt it should have been him. It happened again when Alvaro Arbeloa (of all people) came sliding in to finish what Ronaldo thought would be an easy tap-in for Real Madrid’s final goal in a 3-0 win against Almeria.

As soon as the ball hit the back of the net, Ronaldo was visibly upset — presumably because he missed out on his 40th La Liga goal of the season to go two ahead of Lionel Messi as the league’s top scorer. He furiously kicked the ball back at the net and shook his head as Arbeloa and Fabio Coentrao embraced behind him.

To the internet’s millions of experts on body language, this was a clear show of petulance and selfishness that reinforces his reputation for undignified behavior. But to Arbeloa, the man he supposedly disrespected with his tantrum, it was just evidence of what makes Ronaldo a player that any top footballer would want to have as a teammate.

From Goal.com:

“I’m not upset about Ronaldo’s reaction after my goal,” Arbeloa told reporters. “It just shows you his ambition to score. No one can be upset about that. He’s fighting with Leo Messi for the Pichichi.”

What sets Ronaldo apart is his competitive drive. His unquenchable thirst for goals is so strong that even when his teammate score, it serves as a reminder to him that he didn’t. Yes, this is a form of selfishness, but his teammates and coaches know that it’s a type of selfishness from which they all benefit in various forms. His work ethic sets an example, his brilliance expands the limits of what can be achieved, and though he scores the lion’s share of goals himself, he also sets up more goals for his teammates than any other Real Madrid player (15 assists this season, just two less than La Liga leader Messi) .

His 50 goals in all competitions have undoubtedly helped Real Madrid as they remain in the hunt for a domestic title and consecutive Champions League wins. So, in the eyes of his teammates, who cares if he has a public fit every now and then? They want to win above all else, too. And his state of perpetual competitive overdrive helps them do that.

“But Lionel Messi is just as good without having a prickly attitude,” some might say. And that’s true. But without his attitude, Ronaldo wouldn’t be as good as he is.

Ronaldo isn’t alone in that regard, either. NBA legend Michael Jordan, arguably basketball’s best and most celebrated player ever, was even more combative with his teammates, going so far as to punch several of them in the face at various points in his career. And that was just during practices.

Horace Grant, who won three NBA championships with Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, recently told a story about this in a radio interview. Asked if Jordan would target “little white boys” in practice — a reference to Jordan punching teammate Steve Kerr (an incident Kerr describes as “one of the best things that ever happened to me,” since it helped him earn Jordan’s respect and strengthened their relationship), Grant said (via The Sporting News):

“No, he beat up a big white boy. Will Perdue. I mean, I hate to tell the story, but Will and I are still good friends,” Grant said. “Typical Phil [Jackson, Bulls coach at the time], running this play, and Will set an illegal pick on M.J. M.J. said, ’Will, don’t do it again.’ ‘What are you talking about?’ That’s Will. M.J. says, ‘All right.’ Phil says, ‘Run it again.’

“So naturally, we ran it two more times. Illegal pick. M.J. walks up to Will — boom. Lit him up. It was over.”

But instead of going after Jordan, the other players tried to keep Perdue from hurting their win machine.

“We grabbed Will — you’re not going to hurt M.J.,” Grant said. “M.J. can take care of himself, but, you know. … So, the next day on the plane, Will gets on the plane with a huge shiner.”

Grant added that even when he would get into it with Jordan, he never hit him, because “if M.J. goes out, the Bulls go out.”

On the surface, this is horrible behavior that shouldn’t be tolerated, but in a world where fans, coaches and players unanimously agree that winning and competition should be put above all else, it’s rewarded and encouraged. By being so competitive and emotional even in practice, Jordan made his teammates work harder, play better and win more. Ronaldo is arguably the same way.

Thankfully, he’s not punching his teammates, though. Luka Modric couldn’t handle that.


  1. ikool says:

    There is a big difference between getting annoyed with ur teammate because he gave u a poor play and refusing to celebrate because ur teammate scored instead of u. Did M.J. punch a teammate because that player scored the winning 3 point in a game? Did he sulk when he played badly even though his team won a crucial game? Sorry brooks but the M.J.example u gave is off point. Ronaldo hater or lover, football is a team sport and if u can’t be happy when a teammate get a rare goal, something is wrong

    • Brooks Peck says:

      Jordan didn’t just get “annoyed” with his teammates, he punched several of them in the face and gave at least one of them a black eye. That’s much, much worse than what Ronaldo does. I have no idea how you can’t see that.

      • ikool says:

        U are still missing my point. I not looking for who is worse. I’m saying the comparison is wrong. M.J. was punched because he wanted to win, Ronaldo sulks because he wants to get the goals himself.one is combative, the other is selfish.none is right but a teammate will be more forgiving when u are working for the good of the team(M.J goes out, bulls go out) than when u are working for ur own glory firstand even struggling with them for goals(he has done it to benzema). no idea how u can’t see that ;-). Also, u should call a spade, a spade. Do try to make Ronaldo’s actions look more acceptable by referring someone else who did worse

        • Brooks Peck says:

          But as I said in the post, Ronaldo’s selfishness does help the team and his teammates know that (as evidenced by Arbeloa’s comments). I think we might have to agree to disagree here, though.

  2. Bronn says:

    Am not a ronaldo hater, He’s a complete athlete and by god he works hard but his behavior time & again is so against anything resembling a team player. i still remember last year when ramos equalized just seconds before full time in CL Final, he was sulking so bad. Then Bale scored the winner in 111th minute, he looked like an athletico supporter. I mean for heavens sake, you are about to win the CL final and you look like your wife is getting 95% of the assets in a divorce. In the recent match against Almeria by the end hernandez and others were deliberately giving ronaldo the ball even though they were in better goal scoring positions. For god sake thats not football,

    Hunger is one thing, selfishness and being extra greedy is another all together. And none of team mates say anything because he’s top dog at Madrid and they will be thrown out if they speak out.Everyone including Ancelotti is replaceable if hey obstruct Ronaldo,s goal greed, all this will all come out one day when his peers release their tell all autobiographies. I am not saying Messi is not hungry or driven, but he looks happy when Suarez or Neymar score; Genuinely happy. The last match he was on a hatrick and he gave the penalty to Neymar.
    Maybe i am naive ,, Am not saying you have to be saint to be considered a good team player, a certain amount of arrogance and vanity is required in a Striker but heavens its a TEAM sport.

  3. The Caretaker says:

    Wouldn’t you rather be Messi’s teammate ….. or does Messi’s decision to let Neymar take a PK on Saturday show a cunning understanding of positive publicity?

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