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It is arguable that Cristiano Ronaldo was one of the most hated figures in football. Few England fans will forget England’s game against Portugal in 2006, in which Ronaldo was accused of aggravating his United team mate, Wayne Rooney, which led to his sending off. The famous image of Ronaldo’s wink to the Portuguese bench just after the incident did not help. His move away from Manchester in 2009, did not earn him many favours amongst the faithful of Old Trafford. In 2005, he was arrested for allegedly raping a woman in London, but was later released, in an incident now believed to have been a set up.
Now however, is it possible that one of the bad boys of European football has changed his image? In the past, Ronaldo’s demeanor on and off the field was one of unrepressed arrogance, accompanied at all times with a twisted sneer, that seemed to grow with every goal. In the wake of Manchester United’s loss to Real Madrid, that once famous sneer was nowhere in sight. Ronaldo took his goal with an air of respect for his former club. Holding up his hands, his expression one of near regret, there was a moment that he looked into the camera, with an apologetic look etched all over his face. It was certainly not the expression one would expect to see on a man who has just put his team through to the quarter-finals of one of football’s greatest club competitions.
In addition to his on the pitch change, Ronaldo has recently become heavily involved with numerous charities, many of which are in his home island of Madeira. These have included funding for a cancer treatment facility, as well as relief for the floods that devastated the island in 2010.
Ronaldo is definitely a marmite footballer; you either love him or hate him. A lot of this will of course depend on whether he plays for your team or not. But one thing appears to be clear, the once arrogant, sneering football ace, has somewhere along the line learnt his lesson in humility. If Ronaldo is to de-throne Lionel Messi as the world’s best, then this new found attitude and demeanor puts him that bit closer to becoming as popular as the little man from Barcelona.