Is there any sound more grating than that of the petulant millionaire? One of the curiosities of the situation concerning Cristiano Ronaldo’s on-off move to Real Madrid is the lack of media training that he appears to have received. In an era in which players seemed to have been groomed from puberty, Ronaldo’s candour has been most refreshing. He has made more comments of any interest to the casual observer than David Beckham has managed over the last twelve or thirteen years or so. Unfortunately, most of the things that he has said have revealed him to be a petulant, over-grown schoolboy and, more-over, something of a liar. It’s difficult to say what motivated him to say that it would be fulfilling some sort of childhood dream to sign for Real Madrid other than stupidity, because everyone knows that to be a lie. The best guess that one can put forward would be to presume that Ronaldo’s statement was meant to make friends in influence people, but whether the world-weary supporters on Real Madrid will be impressed by vacuous nonsense is a highly nuanced question. Was it his “dream” to play for Real Madrid when he signed a five year contract to play for Manchester United last year? We’ll probably never know the exact truth.
One can forgive Ronaldo his little outbursts on account that he is, in the overall scheme of things, just a little boy – particularly in the world of football, which long since decided that, for reasons that have never fully been and explained and defy what most people would define as rational logic, the best mental state for a footballer is one of permanent juvenility. It’s hardly surprising that he will come out with nonsense such as much of what has been said by Cristiano Ronaldo this summer. Less easily explained are the occasional outbursts of Sepp Blatter – a man whose mouth and brain seem to be entirely seperate organs, incapable of communicating with each other at anything above the most basic level. Blatter’s comments this week, that football is akin to “modern slavery”, is a phrase that comes straight from Footie World, that strange, hermetically-sealed world in which the rules of the outside world do not apply. Unsurprisingly, Cristiano agreed with Sepp, and it a concept to most of us that is so alien that it is unimaginable that they could see themselves as slaves, but the chances are that they do.
Out there in Real Employment World, things are somewhat different. Blatter’s apparent indifference towards corruption within FIFA wouldn’t be tolerated in the world of business, whilst Ronaldo’s Champions League final penalty shoot-out miss and mediocre Euro 2008 performances might have earnt him an official warning rather than a lucrative to another company and a doubling of his wage packet. What Blatter is calling for, based on what he said, is very dangerous for the game in general. What he is saying is that players should be able to leave a club when they want, whenever they want. He doesn’t (as the excellent Paul Doyle points out in today’s Guardian) make a case for saying that Manchester United should be able to sack a player for being injured, should it be convenient for them. It won’t make too much of a difference to the biggest clubs, whose bank balances can afford to go without the occasional ten million pounds or so, but transfer fees are and continue to be the lifeblood to many smaller clubs. How much more uneven would club football be in this country if there was nothing to stop bigger clubs poaching smaller clubs’ best players?
What we are witnessing here is a power struggle – an ongoing one that will become more and more vicious as time goes on. Blatter regards the big clubs as enemies to FIFA’s (and by extension his) authority and he’s probably correct to do so, but what he seems to be singularly incapable of understanding is that whilst the biggest clubs have the means to be able to support themselves, everyone else will have to deal with the consequences of his comments, even if, in this case, it’s little more than a doodling from a sheet of A4 paper headed “From The Mind Of Sepp” and won’t go any further. Don’t go thinking that he is acting with anything other than flagrant self-interest, though – and do go worrying about poor little Cristiano Ronaldo, either. I’m pretty sure that he won’t end up on the poverty line.