IT IS difficult to imagine Cristiano Ronaldo as a Glaswegian but if he were the locals would have the perfect phrase for him.
"See that Cristiano? He fair fancies his barra". If there is a Portuguese equivalent of the Scottish cringe, then the man from Madeira does not suffer from it. He has never been someone who has been hindered by excessive modesty, never felt the need to hide his light under a bushel. Whenever the Real Madrid man does something impressive, the world will know about it soon enough.
Compare and contrast with Lionel Messi, his only genuine rival in the contest to be considered the world's best footballer of the past five years or so. Messi has scored some of the most exquisite goals ever seen but the subsequent celebrations usually follow a pattern; the player head down, smiling sheepishly, his team-mates rushing to congratulate him as he saunters back to the halfway line, almost not understanding what all the fuss is about. In the eyes of the Argentine, the joy comes from scoring the goal not from the acclaim that greets it.
Loading article content
For Ronaldo, however, it could not be more different. Witness the spectacle that followed his penalty in the Champions League final against city rivals Atletico Madrid, a strike that confirmed Real would finally land that much-coveted decima - their 10th European Cup success. Given his team were already 3-1 ahead and his goal came in the closing seconds of extra time, the sight of Ronaldo taking off his top, flexing his six pack and roaring into the camera seemed typically over the top.
"A shyness" is another Scottish phrase that springs to mind, the 29-year-old not the least bit embarrassed at making himself the centre of attention when team-mates Sergio Ramos and Gareth Bale had made far more significant contributions. The rumour afterwards that this piece of melodrama was for footage for a forthcoming film on the player's life offered an explanation, but did little to dilute the theory that everything the forward does is for show and attention. In truth, though, he has just about earned the right to strut around like a peacock. If you're going to talk the talk, you have to be able to walk the walk, and there are few in the game who can point to such an incredible goalscoring record, and a list of honours as long as his arm. In his five years as a Madrid player he has averaged 50 goals a season, scored at a rate greater than one a game. The afore-mentioned penalty was his 17th goal in last year's Champions League - a record - and he was the top scorer in the competition for the second season in succession. Combined with those collected during his time as a Manchester United player, he has won 14 major trophies including the Champions League twice and four league titles - a staggering haul.
On the international front, however, it has been a different story. Just like Messi with Argentina, Ronaldo has been unable to bring his influence to bear for Portugal the way he did for United and then Madrid. For a player who likes to revel in the limelight, that is undoubtedly a sore point. This is his third World Cup finals and, at a year shy of 30, could well be his last.
Portugal, who begin their campaign against Germany tonight, are not among the favourites to reach the latter stages. Ronaldo, though, will stretch every sinew to lift his team to performances that exceed their ranking. It would be doing players of the calibre of Joao Moutinho and Fabio Coentrao a disservice to describe Portugal as a one-man team but there is little question that everything revolves around Ronaldo. If they are to pull off a shock and lift the World Cup trophy for the first time in their history then the man known as CR7 is going to have to play out of his skin. He is a player who seems to be getting better with age, which may give Portugal some hope as Ronaldo's influence in previous tournaments was fairly minimal.
He is best remembered in 2006 for the wink that followed Wayne Rooney's sending-off in the quarter-final win over England, Ronaldo unable to make a telling difference in the subsequent 1-0 semi-final defeat by France. His only goal in the competition was a penalty in the group stage against Iran.
Four years later in South Africa, Ronaldo was no more prominent. He was named man of the match in all three of the group games but again managed just the one goal, which came in the 7-0 thrashing of minnows North Korea. Portugal 's tournament ended in a whimper when neighbours and eventual winners Spain knocked them out in the last 16. Need ing a big performance from their talisman, Ronaldo again failed to deliver.
Like every elite athlete, failure does not sit easily with him. Just as he does not shy away from crowing in the good times, Ronaldo rarely hides his disappointment when things go awry and is often not slow to chide his team-mates if he believes they are letting him down. His legacy is at stake and Ronaldo does not want to eventually hang up his boots feeling unfulfilled.
"I will only be fully content with my career when I have lifted a trophy with Portugal," he once said.
He will need to be at his best over the next month if he is to realise that dream in Brazil.