Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

There's Just No Magic When Ronnie Shouts Abracadabra; Coverage in Association with /

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

There's Just No Magic When Ronnie Shouts Abracadabra; Coverage in Association with /

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan Jones @dgjones

HANDS on hips, his mouth curled into an ironic faux-smile, his eyes trained meaningfully on someone less gifted than himself; it is not hard to tell when Cristiano Ronaldo has a cob on. And at the competition he quaintly calls 'Euro Cup' (Euro 2016 to most of us) Ronaldo has been cobbing like a good 'un. The world and its footballs are not doing his bidding and he is visibly displeased.

Portugal play Hungary tomorrow, needing a win to be certain of playing in the knockout stages of the competition, where they could meet England. If Ronaldo's fortune does not change, it is possible that this will be his last match of the tournament. His last match of any Euro Cup? It isn't that far-fetched.

The tale of Ronaldo's Euro 2016 tape has been played ceaselessly since his last match, against Austria, in which he missed a penalty, had an offside goal disallowed and continued his to demonstrate his signature move of the tournament: pelting the ball into the trunks of defenders ranked before him.

It does not improve with repeated viewing. It is a story of frustration leaking into disbelief: of a magician shouting abracadabra and finding that nothing happens, that his wand is merely a black and white stick.

By pretty much any metric you want to reach for, Ronaldo is an all-time great footballer, a beautiful, freakish collision of supreme genetics and singular bloodymindedness, who has willed himself to superstardom and deserves everything he has achieved.

He thrives on expectation, feeds on pressure and is one of the most competitive sportsmen in the world. If he sometimes seems absurd, petulant, vain or even mad -- well, this is the price of his excellence.

Yet Ronaldo is also 31 years old and although he is still built like a light-heavyweight boxer he is two years into a physical decline that has already forced him to radically alter his style of play and his position on the field.

He has turned himself from a surging wide forward into a ridiculously prolific but much more conventional No9. An opportunist rather than an inventor. A lightning bolt rather than a tornado. …

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