This article appeared in the December 07, 2022 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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Ronaldo’s big moment

Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters
Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo applauds fans before the start of the second half of the round of 16 match against Switzerland on December 6, 2022, at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.

For some 15 years, Cristiano Ronaldo has been a force of near-mythic proportions. On the soccer field, he has set one goal-scoring record after another. Off it, he has become a brand of staggering proportions. He and his iconic pectoral muscles boast the most followed Instagram account in the world.

But yesterday, at the World Cup, he was benched. 

This was not the first time he’s faced this humiliation. His most recent club team, Manchester United, also began benching him this season. This was headline news. Pundits were consulted. Comment boards were set alight. Then Mr. Ronaldo gave a television interview so inflammatory that Manchester United agreed to mutually terminate his contract with immediate effect. 

Nobody puts Mr. Ronaldo in a corner. 

Yet an interesting thing happened Tuesday. Without Mr. Ronaldo starting, Portugal won 6-1. His replacement, Goncalo Ramos, scored a hat trick. Generally speaking, the same thing was true at Manchester United. The team played better without him. 

On one level, this is the classic story of a sporting legend grappling with his own declining powers. But more even than most sports stars, Mr. Ronaldo has always been about Mr. Ronaldo. Which is why Tuesday might have been the best possible thing for him. 

Even at this stage of his career, he remains a player of prodigious skill. But like all great athletes in their coda, he must evolve. And that will involve humility – one skill he has not yet had to hone. Can Mr. Ronaldo still help Portugal – or any other soccer team? Absolutely. But he will need to realize that there can be glory and honor even outside the spotlight. 

This article appeared in the December 07, 2022 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 12/07 edition
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