Written by Justin Sherman (@JShermOfficial):
In the eyes of most of the world, Cristiano Ronaldo is the villain.
He's wrong for his demand of leaving Spain. He's wrong for the perception of being a runaway, scared to face the music of a tax charge, which as it currently stands, has done nothing to prove him guilty.
He's wrong for leaving a club that has, despite popular belief, done everything over the last nine years to protect and even coddle him to the detriment of countless other talented players who have been cast off as failures shrinking from beneath his immense shadow.
All of these things may be true, but most of the world is rolling their eyes at the prospect of another summer of Ronaldo innuendo that ultimately leads to a new bumper contract.
Skeptics out there also believe that this is nothing more than a ploy to force the clubs hand in working some Franconian magic to make the taxman disappear, but what if the request to depart is real?
For some, this has been a long time coming. You see, his relationship with the club was always an odd one from the start. Real Madrid began their hunt for Ronaldo during Ramon Calderon's tenure as president. Calderon and Ronaldo agreed that he would move to the Bernabéu in 2008. Before the Portuguese winger signed a contract, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson practically begged him to stay in England for another year. Ferguson was the father Ronaldo never felt he had. Present, cognitive and nurturing. Turning his back on him would inflict a dagger Ronaldo knew all too well the pain of.
Calderon officially left office in January 2009, a month after the deal was signed. Florentino Perez was subsequently elected for his second coming as president in June 2009, yet he balked at signing Ronaldo, even though there was a £30 million penalty clause in the contract in case any party withdrew from the deal.
Florentino is a proud man and didn't believe in any inheritances. Ronaldo wasn't his concoction and he believed the money would be better spent on two or three players that could strengthen the squad.
Ultimately, Madrid's general manager at the time, Jorge Valdano, convinced the president to take his time on the decision and think about what he could be passing up. Through hours of deliberation, Perez eventually relinquished and gave the go-head on Ronaldo's arrival.
All of this was never lost on the Portuguese and was only further emboldened when Perez splashed a world record transfer fee of over a €100m for Gareth Bale. Ronaldo felt spurned, somehow as not good enough in the eyes of a president he had ultimately given so much for. With all of these feelings festering inside, it has always been a tenuous relationship between the star and his club. At Madrid, players are commodities. Often seen as toy du jour’s who's reception from the support can fluctuate from minute to minute. Every player has at some point felt their wrath, from Royston Drenthe all the way up to Alfredo Di Stefano. Despite the impression of a man who is constantly exuding confidence, deep down Ronaldo can be quite sensitive.
Now, due to this tax accusation, he seems to have felt his deepest betrayal. One that he feels could've been avoided by the teflon of Perez and his massive influence inside the deepest channels of Spain's elite. Real Madrid almost immediately issued a press release condemning the allegations, placing their own credibility on the line in declaring Cristiano’s innocence before anyone even stepped foot in a courtroom. In the end, the defense wasn't enough. His desire to leave the Spanish capital was leaked to the press and in it came a wildfire of speculation that has engulfed all other stories in its wake. Without comment from Ronaldo himself, or his agent/mercenary, Jorge Mendes, we are left to ponder the unknown.
With his possible departure, over 400 goals, 3 UCL's and the Herculean job of surpassing a Barca side that was once seen as invincible possibly goes out the door with him. Before his arrival, Real Madrid were the PSG of Europe. A rich side, content with riding the backs of expensive talent to domestic competitiveness all the while languishing in the quarter finals of the champions league. Ronaldo’s arrival brought credibility back to a club that desperately needed it, all the while at least entertaining the argument of the best player in the world amongst the genius that is Messi. His success made it cool to be a Real Madrid fan again, a cynical pride Madridistas take in being the most loved and the most hated club in the world.
Presently, Madrid have reached a cycle that even to such an illustrious club is somewhat foreign. They have won their first domestic and European cup double since 1959 and the talent encompassing the side is the envy of nearly every club on the planet. The sale of Ronaldo could fetch anywhere from €130m to €200m. The slashing of his wages off the books would save an additional €200m that could be splashed on the likes of Kylian Mbappé and Gigio Donnarumma.
Now at 32, Ronaldo's game has already shown signs of decline. For most of the season, many supporters wouldn't have batted an eye at a subsequent sale until the last 3 legs of the UCL happened. The ultimate result of this sticky dilemma will no doubt produce harm. Come back and be ridiculed for using a club for personal gain, or depart a situation entirely caused by oneself in order to shed blame?
Ronaldo's legacy at Real Madrid with be the stuff of legends, but a legends ultimate legacy is not always crafted in gold and fireworks.
You either die a hero or live long enough to be the villain, and if this is the end, even for Ronaldo, the latter is always how this Real Madrid movie ends.