In the end he got his big performance: After the defeat against Morocco, Ronaldo leaves the pitch at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, he walks through the players' tunnel, he cries and puts his hand in front of his face. An official accompanies him on the way to the dressing room and pats the unfortunate man on the back to comfort him. Camera footage, which quickly found its way to social media, shows the scenes.
It was the tearful departure of a superstar who probably had his last major appearance at this World Cup in Qatar. They didn't get any further than the quarter-finals, with Ronaldo and Portugal losing 1-0 to the Maghreb outsiders and eliminated. Ronaldo's last chance to win football's greatest title has passed.
Ronaldo is now 37 years old, his contract with Manchester United was terminated because he did not want to accept the role as a substitute. He is currently without a club. As it stands, he won't find a big club in Europe to buy him for big money. Even his attempts to get a job with a top club in the summer failed. Recently there have been rumors that Ronaldo is moving to Saudi club Al-Nassr, which the superstar denied. But he will probably find a place with a financially strong club like Al-Nassr, which has high hopes for Ronaldo's fame. In terms of sport, however, Ronaldo's time is likely to have expired.
Like Neymar, Ronaldo wanted to crown his career with the world title. Like Neymar, he failed and shed many tears after the final whistle. Ronaldo has achieved everything a footballer can achieve except for the World Cup. He is European champion, five-time Champions League winner, has won various league titles and national cups, broke goal records and was named world footballer of the year five times. You can't get much more fame than that.
Now the World Cup title should be added, although the goal was rather presumptuous from the start, after all Portugal was not one of the top favourites. It was also presumptuous because Ronaldo has long since passed his sporting zenith. But Ronaldo has always been characterized by extreme ambition and a very high level of professionalism, which has been confirmed time and time again by teammates. But the ambition no longer quite matches the sporting ability of a 37-year-old.
Nonetheless, Ronaldo is still one of the biggest stars in world football, maybe even the biggest. When he came on as a substitute in the games against Switzerland (in the round of 16) and against Morocco, loud murmurs and jeers went through the stadiums in Qatar. When he took his seat on the substitutes' bench before the games, most camera lenses focused on Ronaldo and captured his demonstratively displayed expression of suffering. Theatricality and flashiness have always been part of him, as has his stunning ability to score goals in the most beautiful, assembly-line manner.
So now the exit in the style of a tragic hero. You may or may not find that "heartbreaking" (as many Twitter users commented on the recordings, including ZDF presenter Kathrin Müller-Hohenstein). The fact is: Ronaldo was and is always good for a big show.