The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
Madrid forward Ronaldo, always a polarizing player, looms tall on and off football field
MADRID - Cristiano Ronaldo is looming even taller than usual in Madrid after a week that has been quite headline-grabbing even by his own standards.
After a spat with Sepp Blatter, Ronaldo mocked the FIFA president with one of his goal celebrations in a 7-3 victory against Sevilla on Wednesday. His hat trick in that game moved him past football great Ferenc Puskas into fifth place on Madrid's list of Spanish league goal scorers.
The Portugal forward followed that performance by launching a personal line of underwear on Thursday, with a 16-meter (52-foot) tall picture of the 28-year-old Ronaldo in his shorts adorning Madrid's city hall.
Madrid is one of the few Spanish cities where football fans would pick Ronaldo over Lionel Messi if asked which player they prefer. Blatter made it clear this week during a speech at Oxford University that he prefers Messi as well.
Ronaldo tried to brush off those comments on Thursday afer the image of him wearing his product was draped over one of the city's most iconic buildings, dwarfing his 1.84-meter self.
"I just try to my work the best I can, so I just try to do good things for my club, to play well," Ronaldo said. "I don't respond to anyone."
Blatter was forced to apologize to the player and Madrid after saying Ronaldo "is like a commander on the field of play" before strutting around the stage to laughs. He also pointed out Ronaldo's expensive hair styling habit.
"Sometimes it's better to think about it, count to 10, and then to speak," Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said of the matter on Friday. "I do that a lot."
Despite all the off-field frenzies that often surround him, Ronaldo hasn't slowed on the field in his fifth season at Madrid. The former world player of the year, who has finished runner-up to Messi for the FIFA prize the last two years, has already scored 18 goals in 14 games compared to Messi's 12 goals in 11 games.
"Cristiano has surprised me, he is such a professional and so serious," Ancelotti said. "What he does is very difficult to do because he gives everything in every game. I can't ask any more of him."
Ancelotti said he would rotate his squad for Saturday's game against Rayo Vallecano with a Champions League date at Juventus next week. But Ronaldo, who has played every minute of every Madrid game so far this year, will not likely get a rest.
"I'll take the decision about who plays tomorrow (but) Cristiano, Bale, and Benzema are well," Ancelotti said.
Ronaldo has always been the main man at Madrid since his 80-million pound (then $131 million) arrival in 2009, dwarfing big-money signings like Kaka, Karim Benzema, Angel di Maria and, so far, Gareth Bale who arrived in August for €100 million ($132 million).
Despite the pressure of playing at Madrid and competing with Messi for the tag of world's best player every year, Ronaldo will be hands on with his underwear business.
"For the moment it's just me," Ronaldo said when asked if models would be hired to show off his product.
Follow Paul Logothetis on Twitter @PaulLogoAP
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