Alan Shearer is aware that Cristiano Ronaldo has been ‘desperately unprofessional’ but recalled times when he was dropped to offer excuses for the striker’s ‘petulance’ at Manchester United.
Ronaldo has been criticised by all but his true fanboys after he stormed down the tunnel and out of Old Trafford before the end of United’s win over Tottenham.
It was a show of great disrespect and his statement that followed wasn’t much better.
Condemning CR7’s behaviour, Shearer wrote in his column for The Athletic: ‘From the outset, I should say that Cristiano Ronaldo’s recent behaviour is totally unacceptable. Showing respect to your team-mates, your manager and your club’s supporters are amongst the fundamentals in football and to refuse to come on as a substitute, as Erik ten Hag has confirmed, and retreat to the dressing room with a game still in progress takes a flamethrower to one of the primary dressing room codes.
‘In a team game, where the basic principle is that you’re all in it together win or lose, such a display of selfishness and petulance is desperately unprofessional and it’s right that Ronaldo should be disciplined by Manchester United because of it. His was a terrible example to set and it’s a shame that instead of reflecting on their best performance of the season against Tottenham Hotspur, Ten Hag has been forced to talk about someone who only figured on the periphery.’
But Shearer empathises with Ronaldo, who is struggling to deal with bring ‘normal’.
Shearer added: ‘I understand Ronaldo’s anger and frustration, because being the best is all he’s known. He’s been the main man, the focal point, the trophy-laden superstar, one of the best players in the world, if not the best, and now for the first time in his career, he has a manager telling him he’s no longer integral, that he can’t do something, instead of looking to him to make the impossible seem routine.
‘I get that his conduct looks bad — and it is bad — but the context in Ronaldo’s case is how unprecedented it must feel to be normal. How strange it must seem to be on the same planet as everybody else, when you hold yourself to the highest standards of performance. When you’re a force of nature and your force is blocked.
‘We shouldn’t forget, too, that the World Cup will be high on Ronaldo’s personal agenda and that, as usual, Portugal will be expecting him to produce, that he needs to be fresh and playing. It must be difficult to have that on the horizon while knowing to the core of your being that in different circumstances you would still be banging in goals. I don’t condone the way he’s acted, but I do think there’s some mitigation.’
Reflecting on his own career, Shearer recalled times in which he was dropped and wanted to tell his manager to ‘f*** off’.
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He continued: ‘For any elite athlete, this moment is very difficult to accept. I’m not putting myself in Ronaldo’s bracket, but I have experience of playing at the top level while confronting my own mortality. Nobody loved football more than me. I never missed training and I was never late, but it’s horrible, really horrible, wanting to do something and being urged to do it by your brain, while realising that your body can’t get there anymore.
‘I was left out of the Newcastle United team by Ruud Gullit in that infamous derby game against Sunderland all those years ago. En route to defeat, I remember Ruud looking over his shoulder in the dugout at Duncan Ferguson and me and telling us to warm up. ‘Oh, so now you want me,’ I thought. I would have loved to tell him to f*** off, but as hard as it is, you’ve got to bite your lip, try and change the game, be as professional as possible and address everything else afterwards.
‘A few seasons later, Sir Bobby Robson didn’t pick me for an away fixture at Aston Villa and it was the same thing, a huge dent to the ego when you’ve been the main guy for so long. There’s a disconnect between knowing you can’t quite do everything you used to, that you might have lost half a yard of pace, and actually accepting it, because you still have the same hunger and attitude and mentality. It must be harder when you’re a phenomenon like Ronaldo.’