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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Cristiano Ronaldo – Simply The George Best?

Whenever a young talented forward signs for Manchester United, the obvious but perhaps unfair comparison with the late George Best arises. Willie Morgan, Norman Whiteside and Ryan Giggs to name a few are several players who were associated with the Belfast Boy.

An immature Portuguese winger was the latest footballer to have had this comparison made. He was a “one trick pony” that was producing the same tricks, the same self-indulgent step-over time and time again. The lack of end product and tired tricks were frustrating his teammates, the opposition and more importantly his own fans. The teenager would often bear his marker then wait for the player to recover and try to beat him again. This youngster had an astounding talent for the game but seemed too ignorant and arrogant to become one of the worlds best.

During the last World Cup Ronaldo and colleague Wayne Rooney clashed during the Portugal vs. England game in Germany. Many expected Ronaldo to flee to Spain, a league where he could play without the constant kicking he received from English players. It looked like the move was ready to happen, Ronaldo admitted to the press "I should get out of Manchester as the circumstances are not right."

Sir Alex Ferguson insisted that the contentious star would be a United player till the end of his contract. Cristiano Ronaldo remained a Red Devil for the start of the 2006-2007 campaign. Ronaldo felt the backlash from the England fans on his return to England. He was blamed for England’s exit. Every away ground he visited every touch was booed

Like Best one of Ronaldo’s greatest strengths was courage. The Portuguese winger never shirked a tackle just like the Ulsterman. Even as an eighteen year old, if Ronaldo got knocked down by an opponent he was never afraid, he bravely got up and ran straight back at his marker often beating him. The booing didn’t trouble Ronaldo; it seemed to make him stronger. He found the best way to silence his doubters was to score goals past them.

That season Ronaldo notched up an impressive twenty-three goals from his favoured right wing position. He helped his club against the odds lift the English Premier League title for the first time in four years. He picked up individual awards such as PFA Young Player of the Year and PFA Player of the year. He became the first player since 1977 to achieve this feat. He started to win over his doubters, but however a few still remain.

Ronaldo’s biggest criticism is that he hasn’t performed in the big games. Manchester United crashed out of the Champions League to eventual winners AC Milan at the Semi Final stage of the tournament last season. George Best was a player who flourished in the big games. In 1966 Manchester United were due to play Benfica in the European Cup. United travelled to Lisbon with plans protect a 3-2 first-leg lead. George Best famously put Manchester United 2-0 up inside, against a team who previously were unbeaten at home in Europe. The away side went on to win 5-1. Ronaldo has yet put his mark on a game like Best did but this season he looks to have improved, one goal and an assist against league leaders Arsenal. He also produced a vital assist away at Anfield last season.

So far in the 2007-2008 season Ronaldo has scored twenty-nine goals from midfield. He looks like the first midfielder since best to score over 30 goals in one season for the club since Best. His free kick against Portsmouth was magical. No other player in the world at the moment could do that. The seventy-five-thousand crowd looked at each other in disbelief. A shot with such accuracy yet so much pace.

Genius in sport is extremely rare. Ronaldo like Best is a genius. They both possessed the ability to score goals, are athletic, dazzling dribblers, brilliant headers of the ball and two-footed. They can have the talent to change defence into attack. Players like George Best Diego Maradona and Ronaldo don’t come along very often. The greatest compliment I can pay to Ronaldo is that he is my generations 'George Best', the player I will tell my son about.


RN recommends the following two diverse and enjoyable reads:


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