So. Farewell then, Cristiano Ronaldo. You were brilliant at football until you weren’t. “It’s all somebody else’s fault.” That was your catchphrase.
With all due apologies to EJ Thribb and none whatsoever to Ronaldo, it is at last time to bid farewell to the Premier League’s crowning ego.
That is unless Crazy Todd Boehly does something crazy, which can’t be entirely ruled out given Chelsea manager Graham Potter’s sane “absolutely not” position is delivered from a position of weakness given the team’s form if you can remember way, way back in the pre-World Cup times of 11 days ago when the Premier League was still a thing. Or if Piers Morgan can convince his very close friend to join Arsenal, of course.
But probably that is it. It is clearly in the best interests of both Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester United for this to have happened, and for it to have happened now. Both can now move on, although in truth United and manager Erik Ten Hag were already seeing other people.
Which was really why Ronaldo felt the need to have some deeply tragic Partridgian last laugh by Having His Say in a disconcertingly boring BOMBSHELL INTERVIEW with Morgan, a man like Ronaldo tragically born without self-awareness but unlike Ronaldo in permanent sycophantic thrall to celebrity and power but with no discernible talent of his own.
A quick glance at the huge stars that have at one time or another been Morgan’s friend or at the very, very least deployed him as a useful idiot could initially provide a more charitable reading on behalf of the failed journalist turned failed broadcaster. With Ronaldo and Kevin Pietersen, it would be just about possible to argue that what impresses Morgan is in fact genius. The sort of genius, in both cases, that is often explained away by mere mortals as maverick God-given brilliance but is in reality the result of single-minded and magnificent exploitation and maximisation of those natural talents through relentless and admirable hard work and dedication to their craft.
But none of that explains Donald Trump, so we must conclude that Morgan is in fact nothing more than a desperate star-f**ker.
In many ways, it’s the part of Ronaldo’s exit from United/English football that makes us most angry. We understand the emotion behind wanting to leave on his terms and getting the last word so pointedly. But was it really necessary to give Morgan another stab at relevance after his blessed invisibility in the broadcasting netherworld of Talk TV?
Morgan is nothing if not a capable self-promoter, and has already carefully positioned himself as Ronaldo Confidante. Only someone like Morgan, for instance, could possibly come out yesterday and say, as a close friend of Ronaldo’s and still in regular contact with the great Portuguese that definitely isn’t one unread and unanswered WhatsApp message that almost certainly makes mortifying use of the word ‘champ’, that Ronaldo is “really happy” to be leaving United.
You’d have to be right there in his inner sanctum, at the epicentre of the circle of trust, to have such knowledge. Morgan will continue milking this for all its worth, because that is what he does and he has quite literally nothing better to do.
Ronaldo himself, meanwhile, prepares to embark upon his final World Cup campaign having deliberately and knowingly detonated this bomb on the eve of the tournament. Of course, he soon turned round and selflessly asked journalists to stop asking his Portugal team-mates difficult questions about him, something he himself must have known would happen and that he could easily have prevented. Of course, he then ducked the press conference the day before Portugal’s opening match and left Bruno Fernandes to face the 17 identical questions about it that duly followed.
Even in that moment, in selfishly leaving Bruno to sort out his mess, Ronaldo was remorselessly on brand.
Ronaldo might be happy to be gone, but United will be even more so. They would surely have let him leave for nothing in January anyway, so spare us the idea that Ronaldo ‘needed’ to give that interview to the one man in his phone he knew he could trust to let him do or say whatever he wanted without any meaningful journalistic interrogation. It may have slightly hastened the inevitable but Ronaldo didn’t do the interview to make sure he got away from Manchester United, he did it to try and get away from Manchester United on his own terms, with the fans on board and his reputation intact.
On those terms, it has failed. The fans were not fooled. His legendary status at United is and always was bulletproof given just how very staggeringly good he once was and even last season still managed to show often enough to make the whole thing just about worthwhile, but there are few fans mourning his departure now nor blaming the manager or club for any of it. Ronaldo’s bombshell achieved only the bare minimum.
It has also, and we’re annoyed about this too, left us absolutely requiring that Portugal go out of the World Cup at the earliest opportunity.
We acknowledge the childishness of this. We totally acknowledge that Ronaldo’s persona and presence is such that even in his drift toward on-field irrelevance we still find ourselves churning out 1000 words on him on an extremely regular basis. But we really do need him f***ed out of his last World Cup early doors please.
There’s every chance, as well. It’s an intoxicatingly mercurial-looking group is Group H, with Uruguay an obvious menace but Ghana and South Korea both precisely the sort of side who could catch a side like Portugal out if focus is anything less than absolute.
We’ve seen enough at this World Cup already to know how easily it can happen, and with apologies to the assorted Portugal players we’d happily see more of – your Brunos, your Joao Felixes, your Bernardo Silvas, the Paulinhas of this world – we’re going to need that to happen please.
And then we’ll need Morgan to let us know how Ronaldo feels about it.