Commentary

Real's boo-boys will never get under Ronaldo's skin

Real Madrid's Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo celebrating after his second goal during the Uefa Champions League quarter-final second leg football match Real Madrid vs FC Bayern Munich, on April 18, 2017.
Real Madrid's Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo celebrating after his second goal during the Uefa Champions League quarter-final second leg football match Real Madrid vs FC Bayern Munich, on April 18, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

Cristiano Ronaldo was whistled on Tuesday. You might not have heard it on TV and you might not have heard it if you were in the stadium either. But he did, and at one point he lifted his finger to his lips.

"I don't tell them to be quiet, never, I only ask them not to whistle because I always give my best in every game. Even if I don't score goals, I try to work hard to help Real Madrid," he said after the Champions League quarter-final tie in which he scored a hat-trick.

Real Madrid knocked out Bayern Munich 6-3 on aggregate and Ronaldo scored five goals over both legs.

His statistics might look like they broker little argument, and they certainly do not invite whistles but there is an argument: Stupid though it sounds, he wasn't playing well on Tuesday.

When the whistles came, Real were struggling and it seemed likely they would get knocked out.

Many of Real's fans are entitled and eternally unsatisfied, always wanting more. Especially from Ronaldo: He has set the bar so ludicrously high for so long, it is easy to fall short.

Ronaldo had slipped over a couple of times and rarely looked a threat. It wasn't until the 76th minute that he had a decisive impact but by the end, he had scored a hat-trick, his 41st for the club.

He also has 100 Champions League goals.

"I don't know who doubts Cristiano Ronaldo," Ronaldo said after the victory over Bayern Munich. He also noted the people "who love me" don't doubt him.

The whistling wasn't loud and it wasn't done by that many. The majority of Real fans cheered him. But he heard the ones that did and it stung.

While Ronaldo's triumphs have been celebrated, some fans think the team should have won more; this is Real, after all.

He is the holder of the Ballon d'Or, a player who, with Lionel Messi, has dominated European football for a decade. The demands at the Bernabeu are gigantic; you have to be perfect, especially if you are the best in the world.

Besides, everyone gets whistled at Real. Gareth Bale has been whistled, Zinedine Zidane tells people it has happened to him, even Alfredo di Stefano got it at times.

Many of Real's fans are entitled and eternally unsatisfied, always wanting more. Especially from Ronaldo: He has set the bar so ludicrously high for so long, it is easy to fall short.

Real fans want more from his team than they have had: this is his eighth season; they have won one LaLiga title - although two Champions Leagues in three years takes some beating, and they are on course for another.

Somewhere beneath the surface, perhaps that becomes an implicit accusation aimed at him.

Ronaldo is emotional but when you have scored more goals than anyone else in the club's history, it must be odd to observe the affection the fans feel for you is not unanimous.

Ronaldo can be over-sensitive but wouldn't you be? And, anyway, what good does whistling do? That might just be the point.

The significance of whistling can be overstated, especially if seen from outside Spain. There is another reason it happens: because it just does.

It's one of those things football fans here do, especially at the Bernabeu. Everyone gets whistled, even the best players.

It is just something everyone accepts. But should it be? Might it not be a bit ridiculous to upset a player who you want to perform well, a man you're relying on?

It is not like Ronaldo - arguably the most relentless, self-made footballer of his generation - lacks commitment.

There is hurt in his words: "I only ask them not to whistle because I always give my best in every game."

Or is that a warped view? Do the whistles and the demands drive players on?

On Tuesday, some Real fans whistled Ronaldo. He then responded by firing them to the Champions League semi-finals.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 21, 2017, with the headline 'Real's boo-boys will never get under Ronaldo's skin'. Print Edition | Subscribe