Cristiano Ronaldo hurls Erik ten Hag olive branch back in his face

Manchester United: Cristiano Ronaldo slams the Glazers

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Cristiano Ronaldo’s poisonous bleating about Manchester United has ensured he is once again the centre of attention heading into the World Cup. The verbal hand grenades he has lobbed in the direction of a club he professes to love so deeply – one that seemed to have finally begun to find itself again under Erik ten Hag – have shown him up as a weapons grade prima donna. Unable to steal the show on the pitch as his powers fade, he has resorted to doing so off it.

Ten Hag has found out the hard way that a great player does not always equate to a team player – or a great bloke.

The olive branch of the United captaincy that the United manager offered Ronaldo for the Aston Villa game after his subs’ bench strop-off has been hurled back in the Dutchman’s face.

Ronaldo, as was no doubt his intention, has ensured he will never play for United again and engineered the move he has been after since the end of last season. The super-ego has reassured Portugal he is fully committed to their mission over the next month in Qatar.

‘Unless Fernando Santos drops you and the toys come out of the pram again,’ Bruno Fernandes and Diogo Dalot must be thinking. The respect his United teammates once held for Portugal’s talisman must have been depth-charged by his mendacious bloodletting.

The circus that has followed him to the World Cup has been entirely – and deliberately – of his own making.

Meanwhile across Doha, Lionel Messi is also in town with Argentina. As is his preference Messi has tried to creep in as if in carpet slippers. It is not easy when you are him – 500 people turned up at 4am to welcome his arrival at the airport – but he much prefers the noise to be saved for the pitch.

If the Messi/Ronaldo rivalry has always been played out through their contrasts in character, those differences have rarely been so clearly underscored as in the past few days.

Imagine Messi sitting down with Piers Morgan and flambeeing his employers just because he couldn’t get his own way?

In fact, imagine Messi sitting down with Piers Morgan at all?

He too is faced with the dying of the light but instead of raging like Ronaldo he humbly continues to make the best of the brilliance he still possesses.

Like Ronaldo, this will be Messi’s fifth World Cup. Like Ronaldo, it will be his last.

He will be able to chase a couple more Champions Leagues with Paris St Germain maybe but at 35 this will be it for the grandest stage.

The desert stop represents the end of the World Cup line.

Between them the pair have redrawn the map of what is possible over their long careers – they have scored an incredible 207 international goals between them – yet time always beats flesh and blood in the end.

The spell the pair cast means that, even as they descend the hill, their talents demand one last hurrah.

While Messi has won a Copa America Ronaldo a Euros, neither has ever won a World Cup.

Ronaldo, with his unshakable self-belief, will think instinctively this is scripted for him as the grand sign-off on his Portugal career and the ultimate two fingers to the club who dared to cross him.

As for Messi, he will simply try to help an Argentina team that is unbeaten since July 2019 achieve their true potential.

For one it is about himself; for the other his team.

I know who I would rather came out on top.

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