World Cup 2014: Cristiano Ronaldo no longer the local hero

He failed to shine for Portugal, disrespected the team and is now out for two months injured

Rio de janeiro

Cristiano Ronaldo says his injured knee “ended exactly like it began” and it is expected to now keep him out for at least two months, as recriminations have begun over Portugal’s first-round World Cup elimination.

Much of the attention has centred on the Real Madrid star and his failure to reproduce the relentless form that won him the 2013 Ballon d’Or. Ronaldo’s goal in the 2-1 win over Ghana took his overall tally in the World Cup to just three.

That has attracted all the more focus because this was seen as something of a last chance for him to finally excel at the tournament in while in his prime, given that he will be 33 by the time Russia 2018 arrives. In mitigation, however, Ronaldo has played through a knee-tendonitis problem.

That was also said to be a factor in his diminished performances leading up to Real Madrid’s victorious Champions League final in Lisbon, prompting recurrent storylines prior to Brazil that his World Cup was  either under threat or he was supposedly defying medical advice to play. Ronaldo is understood to hugely proud of his work with Portugal, and was desperate to deliver in this tournament, despite speculation about his frustration with the team.

However, after the 2-1 victory over Ghana, which eliminated Portugal on goal difference behind USA in Group G, Ronaldo was asked whether his knee had improved with treatment. “It ended exactly like it began,” he responded.

 

Ronaldo’s discomfort was evident throughout the World Cup, as was his frustration with the tournament. The 29-year-old was said to be somewhat embarrassed at being made man of the match against Ghana,  repeatedly pointing out the errors that were threaded through his performance.

Having left for Brazil with so much fanfare, Ronaldo’s return was much more muted. He arrived back in Lisbon on Friday with only a handful of fans there to greet him, and left the airport having picked up a taxi at a public rank. Ronaldo will now begin a recuperation plan while on holiday, but is not expected to return to  action for at least two months.

Ronaldo has not been spared criticism in Portugal. There has been speculation about his elevated status in the squad and his demanding nature, and a former Portuguese club coach has asked questions about the effect of all that.

Manuel Jose, who has worked at Sporting Lisbon and Benfica, said: “He is a fantastic player but every time he speaks he comes out with a blunder. He ended up saying that he never believed in the team. If he does not believe in the team, then he doesn’t believe in his team-mates.

“Portugal have been carrying the ‘world’s best’ like a diamond ring that we never had.”

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