Close your eyes and imagine silver and blue confetti coming from every direction — falling from the sky as if it were rain. And not just confetti — the scene also features a DJ, a stage and tens of thousands of people singing “Campeones.”
This was the scene where I was May 27, 2018, at Plaza de Cibeles in Madrid, Spain.
The Real Madrid squad was being welcomed back from its third consecutive Champions League win — the first team to have done so since Bayern Munich in the 1970s.
And the star at the center of it all?
Portuguese, half-model, half-team member, idol to millions of young kids around the world: Cristiano Ronaldo.
He looks like he is on top of the world as the parade bus pulls into the plaza and his face gets shown on the big Jumbotron propped up in the street. In between hugs with Sergio Ramos and Marcelo, Ronaldo grabs the mic and dances around the makeshift stage. Meanwhile, every 14-year-old girl in the audience (just kidding, everyone) shrieks that he’s actually there in person.
I made two observations about Ronaldo that day: 1) Madrid treats him like he’s its adopted Spanish son, and 2) He carries himself like he knows he’s the best player in the world.
I think both of these facts are key in the story of why, then, mere weeks later, Ronaldo announced his move from Real Madrid to Juventus, an Italian club team based in Turin.
Why would Ronaldo leave one of the richest and definitively the most successful club team in the world to venture into the great unknown? Why would he leave his adopted Spanish family, so to speak?
There is much speculation on this matter, and everyone from fans to rival Lionel Messi has an opinion on Ronaldo’s move.
Many sources cite Ronaldo’s complicated relationship with Real Madrid President Florentino Pérez as a driving factor in the trade. Others said he was undervalued in his contract for Real Madrid, while Messi and Neymar possessed annual salaries that nearly doubled that of Ronaldo’s on their respective teams.
“It surprised me. I didn’t imagine him leaving Madrid or joining Juventus,” Messi said in a radio broadcast. “There were a lot of teams that wanted him. It surprised me, but he went to a very good team.”
I was as stunned as Messi when I heard the news, after having spent five months studying abroad in Madrid. My assessment is that Ronaldo needs to be the shining star of his team. Where Ronaldo staked his claim as the best when he scored a hat trick in the Portugal-Spain World Cup match, he wasn’t the star of the Champions League final game.
He didn’t score at all. It was Gareth Bale who won Man of the Match for scoring the two goals that solidified Real’s win over Liverpool.
It was a matter of Ronaldo feeling taken for granted by Real Madrid and not having the room to shine brightest on the team. Only his pursuit of the spotlight could motivate such a drastic move at the drop of a hat.
Juventus will undoubtedly benefit in the long run from Ronaldo’s presence on the team. Its last Champions League win was in the 1995-96 season, but many believe that the addition of the soccer wizard will make it a difficult draw this year.
Soon enough (if not already) Madrid’s former golden boy will become Italy’s adopted son. And maybe this famiglia will know to give Ronaldo the sole spotlight so he doesn’t feel compelled to look elsewhere for his validation.