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Yes, Ronaldo is a sore loser – but that has helped him become a footballing great

Yes, Ronaldo is a sore loser – but that has helped him become a footballing great
As Lionel Messi picked up a record sixth FIFA player of the year award in Milan on Monday night, Cristiano Ronaldo was at home with his feet up, reading a book.

The Portugal and Juventus forward declined to grace the proceedings at the Teatro alla Scala with his presence, despite it being just a two-hour drive from his Turin base.

The image Ronaldo shared with his 184 million Instagram followers showed him resting up with a book while his son studied diligently in the background.

"Patience and persistence are two characteristics that differentiate the professional from the amateur,” Ronaldo wrote.

"Everything that is big today has started small. You can't do everything, but do everything you can to make your dreams come true. And keep in mind that after night always comes dawn."

Cryptic musings as Ronaldo reflected on the fact that an award he has previously picked up five times would this year be destined for his great Argentine rival Messi, who also beat Liverpool’s Dutch defensive colossus Virgil van Dijk to the accolade.

Also on rt.com Best in the world: Lionel Messi and Megan Rapinoe win FIFA player of the year awards at Milan gala (VIDEO)

Ronaldo’s ceremony snub inevitably led to accusations of sour grapes, with the social media swipes intensifying when it was revealed that there was no room for Messi in the Portugal captain’s top three selections for the Best Men’s Player prize.

Instead, Ronaldo opted for Juventus teammate Matthijs de Ligt as his number one, followed by Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong in second and France and PSG forward Kylian Mbappe in third.

By contrast, Messi – as captain of Argentina – had room for Ronaldo in his top three, putting the Portuguese striker second, between Senegal and Liverpool forward Sadio Mane and Barca teammate De Jong.

Ronaldo’s supposed sulk has drawn accusations of arrogance, bitterness and insecurity among the social media chattering classes – where the perennial ‘GOAT’ argument between fans of the Juventus forward and supporters of Messi is rarely the most nuanced of debates.

It will have been painful for Ronaldo to watch Messi lap up the plaudits on the Milan stage – the joke being that the Barcelona ace had heeded Ronaldo’s exhortations to come and join him in Italy by doing just that, only not exactly in the way the Portuguese had planned.

Indeed, in his emotional and engaging recent interview with Piers Morgan, Ronaldo revealed that he was targeting more world player of the year accolades to put the Messi debate to bed once and for all, believing in his mind that he “deserves” that recognition.

Now that Messi has edged in front in the honors stakes in their personal duel for greatness, it will be galling for Ronaldo.  

Also on rt.com Ronaldo aiming for as many as EIGHT Ballon d’Or titles to end Messi debate once and for all

But this year, it’s hard to argue that Ronaldo deserved the top FIFA prize ahead of Messi – or Van Dijk for that matter.

Messi racked up 51 goals in 50 games for Barcelona in all competitions last season as the Catalans retained their La Liga title. He conjured up such magic moments as his incredible lobbed goal against Real Betis – which was a Puskas contender – as well as that incredible free-kick against Liverpool in the Champions League semi-final first leg.

Yes, Messi and Barcelona famously folded in that second leg at Anfield, and yes, he yet again failed to lift silverware with Argentina in the Copa America during the summer. But at the age of 32, his stats and consistency remain quite simply staggering.   

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Ronaldo, 34, deserves huge credit for making the switch from Real Madrid to Juventus, taking up a challenge in yet another of Europe’s top leagues.

In winning the Scudetto, he became the first player to seal titles in the big leagues in England, Spain and Italy. He reached the milestone of 125 Champions League goals – including his remarkable hat-trick in the last 16 second leg against Atletico Madrid – and also captained Portugal to the inaugural UEFA Nations League title.

But overall, the stats showed diminished returns of 28 goals in 43 appearances for Juventus – still impressive, although some way off his diminutive Argentine rival.

Also on rt.com Sore winner? Ronaldo unimpressed as Bernardo Silva named UEFA Nations League's best player (VIDEO)

So, should Ronaldo have fronted up and simply accepted Messi’s superiority, appearing for the cameras on Monday to smile graciously? And was it petty that he snubbed Messi in his top three, supposedly out of spite?

Perhaps.

But putting aside the notion that Ronaldo is free to do what he likes with his time – and to vote for whoever he wants – expecting him to arrive in Milan and suck it all up alongside a grinning Messi was always going to be a stretch for a man who so prides himself on personal success.   

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He may stand accused of setting a bad example, but Ronaldo has consistently done enough on the pitch to inspire millions of youngsters around the world.

Many who have played with or managed Ronaldo down the years have paid testament to his incredible drive and determination; his willingness to push himself to the limits to achieve even more rarefied heights on the pitch is the stuff of legend.

Former Manchester United teammate Gary Neville and ex-Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti are just two of the figures to note his incredible levels of dedication.

READ MORE: Ronaldo shows he has zero chill as Sunday workout video sends social media into meltdown

Football is also full of different characters, imagined or otherwise – from the "humble" Messi to the likes of the supposedly "arrogant" Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The vanquished Van Dijk appeared in Milan on Monday, graciously accepting his fate as runner-up, saying: "The people who vote made a decision and you have to accept it... as players you can't compare me and Messi because it's totally different. I'm very proud to be here."

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Ronaldo's no-show, meanwhile, meant fans did not gain a similar insight into his feelings, and will bolster the belief that he is preening, arrogant and self-absorbed. 

It's true that his drive to win – both collectively and personally – can manifest itself in displays of arrogance or a perceived lack of sportsmanship. 

But despising defeat of any kind is partly what powers Ronaldo’s formidable talents.

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And while he may respond to setbacks and supposed slights on his greatness in different ways to others, is the shiny ideal of each and every player congratulating each other and smiling through gritted teeth even in defeat really realistic, or even desirable?   

Ronaldo's social media musings that “after night always comes dawn” hint that he will be using this latest disappointment to spur himself on even more. He strives incessantly to be the best, and in his mind always will be.

And if he sees shunning an awards ceremony as a way of fueling the fire inside, then fair enough – we will all benefit when he delivers even more moments of brilliance on the pitch.

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