Ronaldo and the ball boy: what’s the point?

When Cristiano Ronaldo threw his Juventus jersey to the ground yesterday, I didn’t have the feeling it was meant to be a present for the ball boy. The kid took a while to figure out there was a Cristiano Ronaldo shirt on the ground.

He looked around quickly to see if someone else had seen it and then suddenly went over the advertisement board to pick it up. What a day it must have been for him.

Reports in Italy suggest Ronaldo did want to throw the shirt at the ball boy, which, again, is not the same feeling I had watching the scene live. I may be wrong, of course. But whether Ronaldo wanted to give his jersey to the ball boy or throw it on the ground, this is not the most relevant talking point from the whole situation.

I was attending the game at the Allianz Stadium yesterday. At the end of the match, I was watching Ronaldo because he had been pretty unsettled during the whole game. Juventus won 3-1, but without his name on the scoresheet.

Ronaldo wasn’t happy with his performance and wasn’t impressed by his teammates either. It’s not the first time it had happened since he joined Juventus, and it’s not the first time it had happened in his career.

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The Portuguese star is a record-breaking machine that feeds himself with goals, goals and goals. Ronaldo reproached Federico Chiesa a couple of times yesterday as the former Fiorentina winger didn’t give him service, despite CR7 being in a good position inside Genoa’s box.

He also shouted to Giorgio Chiellini, urging him to “keep attacking” as Genoa were reduced to 10 men due to Davide Zappacosta’s injury in the second half.

He wasn’t happy, and his body language proved that. He often shook his head in discontent, and he also did it when leaving the pitch. Finally, he threw the shirt to the ground, and the ball boy picked it up. Whether it was meant to be a present or not, Cristiano Ronaldo’s irritability is a fact, and Juventus must reflect on that.

Ronaldo has been Juventus’ best scorer over the last three seasons and is the Serie A leading scorer with 25 goals in 27 games this term.

However, Juventus are likely to miss out on their 10th successive Scudetto and have been eliminated from the Champions League round of 16 for the second season in a row.

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The Bianconeri reached their peak in 2018-19, when they won the Serie A title in February but failed to win the Coppa Italia and go beyond the Champions League quarter-finals.

Now, they are not as competitive as they used to be. That’s not an opinion but  a fact. And if Juventus are not competitive, neither is Ronaldo. Or at least he can’t be on the same level as the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Kylian Mbappé, Neymar and his former Real Madrid teammates, who have had some brilliant Champions League campaigns over the last couple of years.

Ronaldo is irritable, and Andrea Pirlo confirmed it yesterday, even adding it’s a “normal thing.”

Does the rest of the dressing room think the same? Don’t forget, Ronaldo joined a group of veterans that had won everything in Italy over the last decade, and ironically has achieved less since the 36-year-old moved to Turin in 2018.

Ronaldo has little responsibility for that, but his complaining behaviour can be easier to accept when things are going well and trophies are being lifted.

The Portuguese star has one year left in his contract, and the next few months will be decisive to decide his future as he’s due to meet the club’s executives before the end of the season. Are Juventus competitive enough to match his expectations? Can the club still afford him after being severely hit by the COVID pandemic?

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Also, is there a team in Europe who will pay Ronaldo’s €31m-a-year salary plus a €30m fee to Juventus to secure his services, in case he wants to leave? Ultimately, does Ronaldo have enough motivation to spend one last year at the Allianz Stadium?

Both he and Juventus need to answer all these questions and maybe more.

Surely, Ronaldo will need to play Champions League football next season, something that Juventus are not yet guaranteed, having a mere three-point lead over fifth-placed Napoli and games against Atalanta, Inter and Milan looming on the horizon.

Whether Ronaldo threw his jersey to the ball boy or not makes little difference. The former Real Madrid man looks more and more irritable on the pitch as the days pass. The answer to how long that tension will last may also reveal how long he will still be a Juventus player.

@lorebetto

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