Last night Manchester United lost out to Real Madrid in the Champions League at Old Trafford, but you probably knew that already.
Two of the best club teams in world football going head to head. It was an exciting, fast-paced game, unfortunately put out of balance by the red card issued to Manchester United’s Nani at the beginning of the second half and ultimately, inevitably settled by a Cristiano Ronaldo goal.
I don’t want to get involved in a discussion about the dismissal, that is a topic too big for now. A topic not only about the red card but also about intent, refereeing, enforcement of the rules of the game and innumerate other arising problems.
What is interesting here, is Ronaldo’s reaction after his goal. It is de rigueur these days for a player not to celebrate if they score against a club that they used to play for. The Portuguese striker observed this perfectly last night. After he finished off Real Madrid’s second goal, the culmination of a sharp team move on the edge of United’s penalty area, he held his hands up as if to say, “sorry”.
Football players are frequently described and seen as, mercenaries (Motivated solely by a desire for monetary or material gain), which, let’s face it, they are. They get paid, a great deal of money, to play football for whichever team suits them best at that time and if their needs aren’t met they go elsewhere. Once you accept that that is who and what they are they become much easier to understand.
However, not all footballers are completely mercenary in their thinking. It is, though, becoming less and less likely that you will see someone who plays for one team for their entire career, although it does happen. The most notable example of this kind of player, Ryan Giggs, was on display last night but there are many others, amongst them are; Tony Hibbert at Everton, Mark Noble at West Ham, Paul Scholes at Manchester United.
You get the idea that these players, all of whom were born and grew up near to the clubs they represent, have a personal affinity for the club. That is the reason they still play there, that is the reason they, most likely, will not leave. In those cases it would be understandable that if they were to leave their clubs and, having signed for someone else, they then scored against their former, boyhood, club if they made a gesture suggesting an element of regret. In Tony Hibbert’s case it would probably be shock that he had scored but I’m sure once he had gathered his senses he might indicate his regret.
However, for someone who, to a greater or lesser degree agitated for a move (and not only any move but a move in which he became the most expensive player in history, with a basic, starting salary rumoured to be in excess of £180,000 a week), then returns to his former club, scores a goal and apologises for doing so, it becomes a little hard to take.
I can accept you being a mercenary, Cristiano, I can accept, just, that you earn almost £200,000 a week but I can’t accept you being a hypocrite.