Ronaldo's reputation at risk

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:47 AM ET

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND -- Greatness can only be validated on a scale that encompasses far more than merely athletic skill.

When Portugal's star forward Cristiano Ronaldo is measured against that gold standard, he falls well short of earning the respect accorded true gentlemen and greats of the game.

Take nothing away from the 23-year-old when it comes to wizardry on the field. He is a remarkable young player with individual skills second to none in the world. At Euro 2008, he has shown the skills that have made him such a success at Manchester United and allowed him to walk away with carload of trophies.

And he still has yet to play his best. If he manages to get to that place, even at the steep price of admission to this tournament in Austria and Switzerland it will be worth it.

But the young Portuguese sensation is developing a reputation no player should have. In his case though, it's earned.

If he keeps doing it, one of the most prized possessions an athlete can have -- the respect of his opposition and fans -- will be gone faster than the step-over dribbles Ronaldo has become famous for.

Someone needs to take Ronaldo aside and tell him his ugly, cheating swan dives, whatever you want to call them, are not working.

It makes him less of a player and a person and if he doesn't understand that, he should be told it hurts his team.

Come on, man, you're a terrific player. You don't need to flop all over the field like a fish out of water.

He went down the first minute of the first game -- when he was barely touched -- and he hasn't stopped since.

There was a particularly embarrassing moment in the second half of Portugal's game against the Czech Republic on Wednesday when Ronaldo was carrying the ball down the wing. He was step-for-step with the Czech player when suddenly he went down like he'd been pummelled by a nightstick.

The crowd howled, Ronaldo looked at the referee with an expression of stunned disbelief, the kind of expression your six-year-old gives you when he gets blamed for the window his sister broke.

Ronaldo has it perfected.

The Portuguese fans were incensed.

The replay showed the Czech player barely pulled Ronaldo's hand.

The Czech fans' whistles were a condemnation of the lack of professionalism.

Yes, soccer players cheat and simulate. It is an aspect that, paired with faking injuries, brings the game into disrepute. You come to expect that from lesser players but you would hope one of the marquee players in the world would think more of himself and the game than to do that.

Does Ronaldo get fouled more than the average player? Probably.

Star players tend to get that kind of treatment.

But his growing reputation as a diver is making referees think twice before they blow the whistle. They want to make sure there is actually a foul before they award a free kick, especially in a dangerous position on the field.

So what Ronaldo thinks is helping actually comes back to bite him.

Part of the blame for all of this is that officials let him get away with it. When Ronaldo heads to ground, a referee will usually wave him off and signal for him to get on his feet. If they greeted his histrionics with a yellow card instead, he might begin to get the picture.

Ronaldo has a great deal to learn. The way he's handled the situation with his potential exit from Manchester United to Real Madrid is appalling.

He's created great controversy and left United, Madrid and Portugal to deal with it. And when you have no idea what the man is truly thinking, that makes it difficult.

You have to love watching Ronaldo's skill with the ball. But the other skills he's acquired are nothing to be proud of.


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