KEIR RADNEDGE in MOSCOW: How do you solve a problem like Ronaldo? This is the sound of mixed-up music being broadcast across the Confederations Cup in Russia after Cristiano’s latest man-of-the-match award.
On the one hand world federation FIFA and the local organising committee are delighted that one of the modern game’s great superstars should be gracing the 2018 World Cup warm-up tournament with his brilliance.
On the other hand the timing of such hi-viz exposure to the international media could not have been more awkward, from his point of view, after revelations of €14.7m-worth of tax evasion allegations by Spanish prosecutors.
When FIFA’s long-time sponsor Budweiser attached its name to the man-of-the-match award its marketing specialists were delighted at the prospect of brand-name publicity beyond anything available to their rivals.
The established format is an award presentation for the cameras at the post-match media conference. The happy man is expected to answer two or three questions.
But . . . the first question from any journalist worth his salt (or professional status) to Ronaldo on a rare opportunity right now would focus on his reaction to the tax allegations and reports that he wants to abandon Spanish football and Real Madrid as soon as possible.
Any attempt by a media officer to tell reporters: ‘You cannot ask him anything apart from the match,’ would be howled down as censorship.
The problem for Ronaldo and his entourage is that he is usually the man of the match and hence expected to show up for the presentation.
After Portugal’s opening 2-2 draw with Mexico his apologies were presented on the grounds that he needed medical treatment directly after the match; after last night’s 1-0 win over Russia he was asked by the FIFA media officer to review the game and then rushed out because “he will not be taking any questions.”
What he did say was:
“I am very happy with the result. We knew it would be a difficult game against strong opponent. It’s the first time Portugal have won in Russia and we played very well against opponents supported by the home crowd and who pressed us hard. But we had more chances so, with four points, we have to congratulate our team.”
Portugal coach Fernando Santos considered such a damage-limitation solution as perfectly correct and proper in the circumstances.
Santos, challenged about Ronaldo’s silence, said: “He’s here to talk about the game. Full stop. Not about his club or his family. You have to understand and respect the personal life of a player. You will have other opportunities to get all the answers you want.
“I think he did well in not answering any questions.”
Hence the obvious new questions now are as follows: