With 57 minutes gone, Cristiano Ronaldo set foot on the Camp Nou turf. Some 24 minutes later, he trudged off in disbelief. In that period, he had attempted a bicycle kick, had an effort disallowed, silenced Barça supporters with a goal, received two yellow cards – one for taking his shirt off in celebration and another for diving – and pushed the referee.
As far as cameos go, Ronaldo’s appearance in the first leg of the Supercopa was fairly spectacular. It was not so much a soap opera as an epic distilled into less than half an hour. It also summed up Ronaldo as a player.
Every top player has at least one career-defining performance, but this was the definitive Ronaldo performance. Those 24 minutes described his on-field persona better than any biography or film ever could.
You could write an entire piece on the goal alone, a trademark finish from the No.7. The dash to collect Isco’s through ball, the switch to the right to evade Gerard Piqué, the curling shot past the outstretched Ter Stegen – this was Ronaldo at his finest.
When the cameras next cut to him, his shirt was off, his hands on his hips, muscles rippling as he struck a typically defiant pose. This is the Ronaldo that many love to hate, the self-involved pantomime villain who craves the spotlight.
Once his teammates had dispersed, Marcelo handed the shirt to Ronaldo and said something to him. The Portuguese star took the strip and held it aloft for the stadium to see the name and number on the back, a clear retort to Leo Messi after his celebration at the Bernabéu in April.
Behind the show of bravado, there was perhaps some insecurity. How could there not be? Ronaldo’s constant rivalry on the pitch with Messi is part of his makeup. This goal took him to 11 scored at the Camp Nou – one more than Messi in Clásico records.
But there is also a desire to be the villain ingrained in Ronaldo. He has only scored five goals against Barça at the Bernabéu, suggesting the Camp Nou brings out his most ruthless side.
Above all, Ronaldo needs to win. When he fell to the floor and appealed for a penalty in the 82nd minute, it was because he knew Barça were down. One more kick and they would be finished.
No, it probably wasn’t worthy of second yellow, and Umtiti did jostle him. Even so, many rightly pointed out that Ronaldo could have just kept his top on after he scored to avoid any debate.
For a brief moment, he became a petulant child again. The shove of frustration on the referee was unwarranted and foolish, and a five-game ban was the least it deserved. However, it also provided a very literal illustration of how Ronaldo won’t let anything stand in the way of victory.
This time he lost, but he will return as confident as ever when his suspension is over. After all, this is Cristiano Ronaldo.