Football may not be coming home, after England’s Euros finals defeat earlier this year. But football’s greatest star, and perhaps the world’s most famous face and body, is going to be ‘back where I belong’. In England. According to his recent Insta post (336m followers).
The striking Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo is returning, in total triumph, from Juventus to the place where he began his international career, Manchester United FC – with a two year contract: a cool 20M Euros for those hot lallies.
Now 36-years-old, he left Manchester United for Real Madrid back in 2009, when he was 24, with a then-record transfer deal, after a stellar but stormy six year career at Old Trafford. Leaving these shores to boos and catcalls, he got hench – and gained five Ballon d’Ors, scored the most goals ever in international football (111), the Champions League (134) and professional football (785).
He’s still a shredded power on the pitch, but his glory days, like his once-phenomenal speed, are probably mostly behind him. Still, it should be a passionate reunion.
But if England was ‘home’, then it was an abusive one. It will be memory-holed by today’s virtue-signalling press, but for much of his time here, ‘Twinkle toes’ as he was dubbed, was a figure of tabloid hate, and perhaps the nearest thing to an ‘out’ gay footballer in the UK.
Not for his sexual habits, which seemed to involve female supermodels, but because he likes the colour pink, wore a flower behind his ear on holiday, cries, is openly physically affectionate towards male friends, wears Speedos, is Portuguese, and most particularly for being apparently completely unafraid of being called GAY!! by the British press.
He was happy to be light in his pink loafers.
Ronaldophobia – the pathological fear and loathing of an immodest young man too pretty and talented by halves – was a national obsession. His looks, his gifts, his unabashed vanity and vulgarity, and, worst of all, this once dirt poor, now filthy-rich Madeiran’s total lack of interest in what the press called him brought out the absolute worst in the English.
Especially, of course, middle-aged, male hacks who might have been young once, but never pretty.
Inevitably, this footballer who desired to be desired for his sculpted physique and pouting face as much as his sporting prowess, has long been an object of fascination for metrodaddy. Although he seemed like his apprentice to begin with, Ronaldo was even prettier and much more talented than David Beckham.
And also the ‘total package’ physically and commercially, in a way that Beckham, now 46, never quite was. DB7 was essentially just a prototype for CR7.
Although Becks was very happy to strip off for Armani and Esquire and be ‘objectified’, launching his own underwear design for H&M with his, er, bum, he was ‘athletic’ but not ‘buff’ – preferring to decorate his upper body with ink, rather than muscles. Sometimes, especially in the Armani campaigns, it seemed as if Photoshop had done much of the ab-work.
Ronaldo however, had Photoshopped himself in real life. (And eschews ink.)
Ronaldo is digital, Beckham was analogue. Social media, to Becks’ glossy magazine. Spornosexual, to Beckham’s metrosexual.
To mark his return to English football, and perhaps his soccer swansong, I’ve collected below some of my musings on the made Madeiran, in chronological order. Starting with a piece from 2008 about The Sun‘s blatantly homophobic obsession with the ‘arch metrosexual’ footballer as they call him – and his ‘too dark’ tan. Even today’s Sun wouldn’t dream of publishing this stuff: which is perhaps why it’s vanished from their website.
His departure from Manchester United – and English life, June 2009:
The ‘boyfriend’ faux scandal, April 2016:
THAT ad, May 2017
How Ronaldo became the most Insta man eva, Jan 2021: