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"Ronaldo" From a Barcelona Perspective

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A look at the recent documentary film on Cristiano Ronaldo.

Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images

Let me preface this article by saying I knew exactly what I was getting myself in for. "Ronaldo" was directed by Anthony Wooke, who also worked on "Senna", under the watchful eye of football super-agent Jorge Mendes. I was not expecting an emotional, edge-of-your-seat film that would make me see Ronaldo in a whole new light nor was I expecting a 100% accurate description of the Portuguese winger. This was very much Ronaldo through Ronaldo's eyes.

One of the key aspects that interested me before the film was how Ronaldo would describe his relationship with Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi. For the past seven or eight years, world football has been transfixed with Messi vs Ronaldo. Every Clásico would bring fresh comparisons and I was intrigued to hear from one of the two men in the centre of it. When the film started, I was expecting a bit of build up and exploration of Ronaldo's childhood before the words "Ballon d'Or" or "Lionel Messi" were spoken.

It took just two minutes and fifty seconds before the Argentine was on the screen.

You saw pictures of Ronaldo's Ballon d'Or success accompanied by a triumphant score that all stopped when we reached 2009 and Messi collected his first award. A solitary violin played as Ronaldo narrated the difficulty he had seeing Messi win award after award. Images of Barça's number 10 smiling were made to look like mockery towards Ronaldo and if you were watching knowing nothing of football, it would have you believe that Messi is the Darth Vader to Ronaldo's Luke Skywalker.

Through Ronaldo's narration, you get the idea that he is obsessed with being the best. He speaks of a desire to improve and has a constant need to express being at the top. Speaking at a dinner with friends he half-jokingly asks "who's the best in the world?" before answering himself "me".

Luckily, the comparison with Messi did subside. We got a glimpse into this isolated world Ronaldo lives in and we heard from his inner circle.

If you follow football, the name Jorge Mendes will most likely be familiar to you. As described by Ronaldo himself in the film, Mendes is the "Cristiano Ronaldo of agents". The Portuguese agent has a cliental that features the likes of Angel di Maria, David De Gea, Diego Costa, James Rodriguez and Thiago Silva among many, many more but his crown jewel is Ronaldo.

Mendes and Ronaldo share many of the same attributes, a relentless desire to be at the top and a need to win. "Nothing is impossible, nothing is impossible" Mendes repeated over and over again so much so that you would believe he was the man who came up with Adidas' slogan. The film is as much about Mendes as it is Ronaldo.

Through Mendes, the audience is introduced to Ronaldo's mother brother and young son. While watching the interactions between Cristiano Ronaldo Senior and Cristiano Ronaldo Junior, it is yet further evidence of the film's intentions to sway the audience from this perception of Ronaldo as the bad guy but it comes off looking forced and unnatural.

After a half an hour spell of freedom, the comparison to Messi is back. Ronaldo's Portugal flunked out of the Brazilian World Cup leaving the winger to contemplatively look into the distance as Messi picked up the best player award (an award Messi visibly didn't want but the film wasn't going to mention that).

As the film progresses, you begin to wonder what a Lionel Messi film would look like. Would there be a constant comparison to Ronaldo? Would there be consistent reminders of times Messi has won over Ronaldo?

The most striking thing for me came during the October Clásico last year. Whilst watching high up in the Bernabéu, Mendes is seen chatting with someone who leans over to the agent and says:

"The other guy could destroy everything"

It is the quintessential embodiment of how Messi is viewed within the Ronaldo camp. Referring to him as "the other guy" alludes to being scared to even say his name in fear he could rob Ronaldo of another Ballon d'Or. Using such emotive language as "destroys" further paints Messi in his villainous role and the Argentine's personal vendetta against Ronaldo's trophy cabinet.

It is often easy to forget footballers are people too and insights into their lives do humanise them. But this film seems more like a 90-minute long propaganda video designed to change Ronaldo's bad boy appearance. To show Messi as this scheming villain who is just playing football to preven Ronaldo from winning.

However it is it's own undoing when, towards the climax of the film, as Ronaldo readies himself for the most recent Ballon d'Or ceremony, his son becomes transfixed at something across the room. "Do you recognise the man in the suit?" Ronaldo Snr asks as the camera switches to show a smiling Lionel Messi. Messi greets the child, smiles at the player and reminds the audience that this is no monster, rather a man who just enjoys football.