I’ve mentioned my grandson S’s passion for all things football. He’s only 7 but simply loves the game; he plays whenever he can, reads every footie magazine he can get his hands on, listens to footie song CD’s in the car on the way to and from school, collects Match Attak footballer cards and can tell you any fact from them , watches any match he’s allowed to on Sky tv (including classics) and he talks about the game with such insight that he makes Mottie look like a rookie. He’s constantly posing me questions like who was better and why, Zidane, George Best or Cantona? And he expects a well-argued response.
He can play a bit too. He’s tall for his age and he’s a very strong tackler with a great shot on him. Recently I’ve been taking him along to his footie club on Saturday mornings down at Hove park. Last week he won the player of the day award. I was a very proud grandad watching him collect his trophy and certificate. The gathering of lads applauded him politely when one young lad chimed up that it wasn’t fair to award it to S because he was bigger than most of them, to which the coach replied that he could hardly penalize S for his size, hearing which another kid then remarked, ‘yeh but he’s better too’. I smiled. My grandson was stood there in his Barcelona FC socks (his favourite La Liga team), his Stoke City shirt (his dad’s favourite team) and of course his beloved Man U shorts and track suit top. His favourite player, whose mannerisms and goal celebrations he copies proudly, is unsurprisingly Christiano Ronaldo. And he smiled that cheeky Ronaldo smile as came over to show us his trophy.
Ah Christiano. I’ve been trying to encourage him to follow another idol like Rooney or Gerrard because I’ve become fed up with CR’s histrionics over time (see recent posting The Beautiful Game? 11 May). But S would have none of it. He loves goal scorers more than anything and Rocket Ronnie’s been indisputably just about the hottest around these last few years. And didn’t I realise that Ronaldo was the only player to receive a 101 score from Match Attak cards for his attacking prowess and his defensive capabilities. Which, according to Match Attak, makes him a better defender than John Terry, Vidic and virtually every other Premiership player. That must come as a bit of surprise to his United team-mates who probably wouldn’t regard him as the best at tracking back, methinks (and he’s only just got that rare Ronaldo card after collecting these things for over a year. I can testify to his disappointment at the several hundred sets we bought him not containing the Rocket. God only knows how many his mum and dad-in-law bought chasing Ronnie’s absent image, not that any of us have been counting of course). But no matter how much I questioned MA’s judgement and suggested more complete and admirable players, S wasn’t to be convinced. Ronaldo was the very best player in the world, an irrefutable fact, and his absolute favourite.
Until yesterday of course, when Man Utd accepted a world record transfer fee of £80m for the Real Madrid-bound ingrate. My daughter e-mailed to say that he’s very upset and it might even result in him switching allegiance to Real pain-in-the-arse especially as they’ve taken to hoovering up the world’s great players again (S likes KaKa too). I’ll speak to him about that. You sense two things a) as a policy the Galactico approach is essentially flawed and b) Man City and Chelsea will do their best to emulate it even so. It seems that Ronaldo spent last night with Paris Hilton. Clearly he is attracted to things with more money than sense and personally I’m not sad to see him go.
But I also sense that my grandson has probably learned his first hard lesson about how it’s a game that has lost its true beauty in the pursuit of money. Ah well I’m sure he’ll get over it as will Man Utd with £80m in the bank rather than a strop on the wing.