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A little contrived, but still a thought to ponder. Well, someone in Krastovo is having a quiet chuckle for sure. Not because Ronaldo is afraid of any opposition, he is way too far ahead of shying away from a fight. And the enemy’s condition has never been Ronaldo’s concern, neither should it be.
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That the Catalan-Castillian animosity will rear its head in Russia and claim the scalp of Julen Loetegui two days before their first outing, was unthinkable. Yet it happened and Ronaldo, like the rest of the interested parties, would have followed the thriller as a comic relief.
To assume Spain will be weakened by the sudden change at the top will be totally misplaced. A little out of focus they could be, which might remind Portugal’s elder statesman his days in the national team shirt, still wet behind the ears. It was Euro 2004, when Portugal got the better of Spain in the group stage. Ronaldo, all of 19, was an aspiring actor on that night in Lisbon, where Nuno Gomes played the hero. That story did not have a happy ending, though.
It took 12 long, arduous years for Ronaldo to direct and play the lead role in a famous victory on the Seine embankment. It had a hint of a sad ending though, when Ronaldo, the Portuguese captain, Real Madrid icon with 320 million followers on social media, had to leave the Stade de France pitch 24 minutes into the game after an injury. Still, Portugal got the better of hosts France and Ronaldo achieved something that Eusebio and Luis Figo did not, a senior continental title.
Now, 33, he is competing in his fourth World Cup, a trophy that is missing from his ever-expanding cabinet. He will be meeting six of his Madrid mates in Sochi, who will be baying for his blood on Friday evening. It would be a fascinating duel of the ‘frenemies’.
Fernando Santos, the Portugal coach, has wanted the team to keep a quiet profile and so far he has been successful.
Still, he could not keep the noise from travelling to Portugal’s camp following the Krasnodor meltdown in the Spanish camp.
At the World Cup so far, Ronaldo has managed just three goals in three tournaments: one against Iran (a penalty) in 2006, one against North Korea in 2010 and one against Ghana in 2014.
Travelling across the Atlantic four years ago, with an unhealed leg injury, Ronaldo looked a sorry sight.
The showman needs one last big blockbuster and Lopetegui saga may have just given him the boost to script a beautiful story.