FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s “light-hearted” comments on Real Madrid’s forward Christiano Ronaldo could not have come at a worse time. Although the Swiss have since personally apologized to the Real Madrid player for his “unacceptable hair expenses” comment when he was asked to compare Ronaldo against Lionel Messi during his address to the Oxford Union last week, the football club is reading malice especially coming at a time when players for the prestigious Ballon d’Or award were awaiting nomination (Aspin para. 1-4).
It is common knowledge that Real Madrid has been preparing for the occasion to overthrow Barcelona during this year’s FIFA’s World Player of the year presentation. Both Christian and Messi have been nominated to compete for FIFA’s Ballon d’Or, along with other European soccer heavyweights such as Gareth Bale, Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, Andrea Pirlo, Andres Iniesta, Philip Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger (Ingle para. 1-7).
Although Messi has been outstanding this year, though not to the level and shape he was between 2009 and 2012 when he rocked the world by being crowned the most prolific and professional player four years in a row (Ingle para. 20), Ronaldo’s exceptional form in recent times means that the player could be on spot to topple the Argentine International. Such an achievement definitely means much for Ronaldo, but so much more for Real Madrid.
It therefore came as a surprise for Real Madrid when last week FIFA’s president Sepp Blatter admitted openly to preferring Messi over Ronaldo, and went further to describe Messi as “good boy” before going on to say, in perceptible reference to the Portugal international, that “one has more expenses for the hairdresser than the other” (Aspin para. 5).
The FIFA boss didn’t stop there; rather he went a step further to liken Messi to “a good boy who every mother and father would like to have at home”, and Ronaldo to “a commander on the field of play” (Aspin para. 17-19). It is these remarks that have catapulted Real Madrid’s president Florentino Perez into branding Blatter’s comments as unacceptable, disrespectful and unfair to a professional football player who has a wide fan base around the world (Aspin para.1-7). The Portuguese Football Association also reacted angrily to the comments and called upon Blatter to provide an explanation on what he really meant.
Although Blatter’s original descriptions of the two players came during a question and answer session at a university event, Real Madrid is reading much more that the “light-hearted comments” explanation provided by Blatter when he was apologizing to Ronaldo, particularly coming only a few days before Ronaldo was nominated as a candidate for FIFA’s World Player award along Messi and other players.
The dynamics of such unconcealed comments on the character of a player of international repute such as Ronaldo, in the view of Perez, could influence the voting pattern for the Ballon d’Or, with the Real Madrid forward hoping to put to an end Lionel Messi’s domination of the coveted award (Aspin para. 2).
This view is validated by the fact that although the judging panel for this year’s Ballon d’Or – comprising national coaches, captains, and journalists – are supposed to vote sorely on professional achievements of soccer players, reputation will inevitably play a critical part during selection (Ingle para. 3).
Drawing from the reputation theory, it is not difficult to understand why Real Madrid’s president reacted angrily to the comments, and also why the club may not share in the joy of having one of its key players selected as FIFA World Player of the year early next year. Going by the fact that Messi’s reputation will definitely count for him should it matter during the selection process (Ingle para. 9), the last thing Real Madrid needs right now is an affront to the character and reputation of it No. 1 contender – Christiano Ronaldo.
Not only did Blatter express a preference for Messi over Ronaldo, but his comments could be considered as an affront to the character and reputation of Ronaldo in his bid to overturn Messi’s winning streak in previous FIFA’s World Player awards, particularly in light of the fact that the shortlist for the 2013 FIFA Ballon d’Or for both players and managers has already been announced (De Menezes para. 1).
As an influential figure in FIFA, Blatter should have known better than to provide comments that would later be construed as a serious slight on Christiano Ronaldo in particular and Real Madrid in general (Aspin para. 3). The FIFA boss may have dispatched a personal apology to Ronaldo, but it appears that the damage to the reputation and character of the player has already been done going by the reactions of the club’s president, Coach Carlo Ancelotti, as well Portuguese Football Federation (Rogers para. 1).
Real Madrid needs Ronaldo to win the coveted FIFA World Player of the year come January 2014 and prove the critics wrong, but such comments coming from the man at the helm of the world football governing body are counterproductive to healthy competition for the prize. Tellingly, the comments may mean more for Ronaldo’s and Real’s attempt at the coveted prize than the mere “light-hearted” postulations of the FIFA boss.
Aspin, Guy. “FIFA President Sepp Blatter Apologizes to Christiano Ronaldo after Real Madrid Anger over Unacceptable Hair Expenses Comment.” The Independent. 2013. Web.
De Menezes, Jack. “FIFA 2013 Ballon d’Or Shortlist – The Run Down of the 23 Men Nominated for the World Player of the Year Award.” The Independent. 2013. Web.
Ingle, Sean. “Ballon d’Or 2013: Lionel Messi any not Have It All His Own Way This Year.” The Gurdian. 2013. Web.
Rogers, Iain. “Blatter’s Ronaldo Remarks Prompt Angry Response.” Reuters. 2013. Web.