Ronnie Ronaldo


Much to the consternation of our heirs, my carer and myself decided to dip into some of their inheritance and have a winter's break in Madeira.

As you disembark from the aircraft the first thing you can't help but notice emblazoned on the side of the terminal building is not its name Funchal, but a very large image of one Cristiano Ronaldo. This was a marker for the whole holiday as his presence is felt all over the island.

Previously I was not aware that Ronaldo was born and bred in Madeira, nor was I aware that Christopher Columbus spent many years here as well. Have the two any connections? Well perhaps, one could argue that Columbus literally stumbled and fell upon America and Ronaldo stumbled into many a penalty box ...and just fell.

On our first day in the capital Funchal, we intended to perambulate along the magnificent sun-drenched esplanade but as one of the wheels was buckled, we decided to have a walk instead.

The place is spotless with no litter or chuddy stuck to the pavements and, best of all, no rarfs. The marina was dotted with yachts and cruise liners aplenty and I swear that if it wasn't for the warm wind, were you to close your eyes ...tightly, very tightly, you would actually believe that you were on the promenade near the bandstand on the Headland.

As we approached the end of our walk the bride pointed and said, 'Look over there - it's the CR7'. My camera was instantly at the ready and scanning the road to see if I could spot the latest offering from Jaguar ...or Citroen, but no luck. Instead I was then reluctantly and gently ushered into the CR7 - the museum, or should I say holy shrine, in honour of Our Lord Cristiano Ronaldo.

Looking at the numerous trophies, caps, cups, medals and awards that are on display which he has won over the years, you have got to admit, like him as an individual or not, that the boy has a talent. It is little wonder that his family have created this museum as a money-making place of worship ...or perhaps his mam just had a quiet word in his shell-like, saying that there was not enough room on the mantelpiece for all that silverware in her semi back home.
"He's good, but he is no Ritchie Humphreys"

I could not begin to imagine how much the family spend on Brasso and Dura-glit to keep all those trophies gleaming. They also had a very clever interactive screen which fans could stand in front of, and Ronaldo would appear stage left, ball juggling, then stand beside the fans who would then have a photo or video taken beside him. After a few seconds he would turn around give a big smile and wave at them, leaving them, and their parents' pockets, a few euros lighter. I was going to suggest another interactive amusement. As the museum is located directly beside a quayside with crystal clear water, how's about a diving board?

As you enter/exit the museum there is a large bronze statue on a plinth and I could not make my mind up if it was of the man himself or yet another trophy for winning the Brad Walker lookalike of the year competition. As I left I considered writing a comment in the visitors' book. Only one word 'Messi.' I thought that might be a bit trite so instead wrote 'He's good, but he is no Ritchie Humphreys.'

The seafront aside, pretty much every other bit of Madeira is on a hill, a slope, a dry bobsleigh run, an incline, a bank, a side of a mountain, a gradient or a ramp. Obviously there is a downside to all these. So playing 'at this level' could only enhance his ball control, dribbling skills, his balance as well as his fitness levels and to my mind it is the terrain of the island which has made him the player that we know today.

On one of the organised tours we went on, the guide not only enthused about the mountain vistas, the stunning coastline, the desalination plant of St Santos and the overall beauty of Madeira, but at every given opportunity along the journey Ronaldo's name cropped up, whether it be the site of his old house, the football ground he played at or the church which he attended, all of which were pointed out to us with glowing pride.

The guide also described the recently-installed domed radar station on the other side of the island similar in style to the old golf balls on Fylingdales Moor. I suggested to him that when Cristiano finally pops his boots and dives head first through the pearly gates, the Pope should commission a massive statue of him on top of this radar dome much like the one of Christ the Redeemer that overlooks Rio de Janeiro. At first he looked shocked by my proposal, but then agreed that it was a capital idea.

He also told us that Ronaldo insisted that he would buy a car for his mother, this despite the fact that she could not drive. She was expecting a little Fiat 500 or a Berlingo to go on the drive but instead she ended up with a top-of-the-range white Ferrari. He told us to avoid the city centre about half-eight each morning as she drives down to open the museum, because there is always queue of traffic behind her as she never exceeds 20 mph. As for parking tickets, the police send them direct to Cristiano. He also said that sadly, Ronaldo only gets to visit home a couple of times a year; his visits are all hush hush but once the news is out it is bedlam and he gets mobbed everywhere he goes.

This brings me nicely to the old chestnut: if you could only have Ronaldo or Messi in your side who would it be? I'd opt for Messi as he is more a team player; you only have to look at his goal assist ratio compared to Ronaldo's. Also considering his lack of inches he has the rip of players a lot taller than him. Think of what he did to Ferdinand and Vidic in the Champions League final against Man Utd at Wembley a few years back. Ronaldo comes across as, 'It is all about me'. Sometimes you will see a teammate score a vital goal and he won't go over and celebrate with him but sulks as he feels that the same teammate should have set him up to score. On the plus side, perhaps because he has been in a better side than Messi, Ronaldo has been more successful on the international stage, but more importantly he has done it in the Premiership. In his favour Ronaldo is better-looking than Messi but the Argentinian seems to have a better sense of humour. Ronaldo: 'God put me on earth to show people how to play football.' to which Messi replied: 'I never sent anybody.'

Remarkably, with a population of just over a quarter of a million people, up until recently when Uniao De Madeira were relegated,  Madeira had three teams in the Portuguese Premeira Liga. The remaining two sides Nacional De Madeira and CS Maritimo have to play 16 of their away fixtures on the Portuguese mainland. Capital to capital that is a 1,200 miles return trip. And Pools think they clock some miles up during a season.

Madeira tourist board product placement: Over the years I have visited three of the Canary isles and let's throw in Cyprus for good measure but Madeira (if we ignore its German tourists, who do not comprehend the meaning of the word 'queue'), is in a different league altogether. Very genteel. To those people who fall into the Brits-on-the-P--s category or who get a kick out of being a general nuisance to one an all and are normally decked out in union jack shorts and football tops, thankfully this place is not for you.

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