Balague's balance means this is far from a puff piece

Dean Goodison: Book review

Published 29/12/2015 | 00:00

Ronaldo: The biography
Ronaldo: The biography

Maybe the old saying 'Distance makes the heart grow fonder' is true after all. When Cristiano Ronaldo was in England, plying his trade under Mr. Ferguson, he was public enemy number one even before he winked goodbye to Wayne Rooney at the 2006 World Cup.

His prancing, his complaining, his diving and his pristine exterior; it was a bulk deal that ensured the Portuguese bonded 91 football league club together - to use a phrase coined by the great Percival Ulysses Cox - in collective 'gavomiting'.

But then Madrid happened. He's grown up, they said. He stays on his feet now. He takes his kicking. He's reformed. Suddenly everyone* began to like Ronaldo, the begrudging respect turned into something more. Who better than Guillem Balague to cash in on this U-turn.

(*It should be noted that Liverpool supporters still dislike Ronaldo)

Cristiano Ronaldo - The Biography is the product of the Spanish Journalist's hard work. Balague himself seems to split opinion. Some like his work, others mock his approach. Maybe if Gabriele Marcotti wasn't everyone's favourite European football writer Balague would be more appreciated.

Indeed, the tone is set for the publication in the prologue where the author lines out his position with the subject and talks in depth about his 'falling out' with the Real Madrid star. The disagreement is minor in nature, a misunderstanding, but gives an early insight into the psyche of Ronaldo.

At one point Balague refers to Ronaldo as a 'little boy lost', the Spaniard is critical throughout his book but still concedes that it's not all his own fault. He ties in the attacker's behaviour with his upbringing and does a fantastic job of delving into his past to get key insight.

It's also interesting that Balague chooses to reveal that all these stories that have been printed about Ronaldo's charitable donations to the Save The Children charity are false, as is the story of his haircut at the 2014 World Cup and the tale of how he got a Sporting Lisbon trial.

The flow of the book is a little different from the norm for sports publications. Balague isn't afraid to bounce the story from one scene to another and while they don't always tie in tightly with previous paragraphs it keeps the content fresh.

Every aspect of Ronaldo's life and career is touched upon. The early days, the Lisbon years, his time in Manchester to the current career in Spain. Balague even delves into his relationship with Gareth Bale and muses about what the future might hold.

One point that grates a little is Balague's use of statistics to suggest that Ronaldo tends to go missing in the big games, particularly against Barcelona. He has 'less shots, less touches', of course he does, they are playing a team that regularly has seventy-plus per cent possession, his impact is clearly going to be lesser.

Who is going to pick this up in the post-Christmas sales? Sports fans that appreciate the story of a man at the top of his sport will likely not find a better offering than this as they sift through the ample titles on offer in The Book Centre.

General football fans, those of teams not based in Salford, could do worse than picking up this book simply because Balague is quite balanced in his approach which means this is far from a puff-piece. Of course United supporters should go get this, okay the author might not be in your favourites but there is plenty about Ronaldo's time in Manchester and a little about the potential for a return.

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