Ronaldo made a comment in his Jonathan Ross interview (plugging his film) that “he would have more dignity than end his career in the U.S. or the Middle East.”
Even players you would once have considered stalwart, one-club men like Steven Gerrard (504 appearances for Liverpool) and Raul (550 appearances for Real Madrid) are ending their careers in this way; either as a last pay off or for the love of playing on. Their motives may be mixed.
Iker Cassillas played 590 games for Real Madrid and now, aged 34, has chosen to play for Porto. Xavi, after playing 505 times and captaining Barcelona, has left to play for Al Sadd in the Middle East.
There is a certain something, an allure about a one club man, a legacy, and that’s why to a degree Gerrard, Xavi, Cassilas and Raul ending their club careers at LFC, Barca and Real would have enhanced their legacy.
Jamie Carragher (508), Ledley King (268), Paul Scholes (499), Ryan Giggs (672), Francesco Totti (591), De Rossi (440), Matt Le Tissier (456), Tony Adams (504) and Paolo Maldini (647) were all one-club men. It undeniably adds to their legend and mystique, the one-club man mantle. There is a certain selflessness to sacrificing and sitting on the bench towards the end of your career and not tarnishing your one club legacy for a brief, bittersweet soirée elsewhere.
Cristiano Ronaldo has a point about dignity and I make the further point about loyalty. Players like Alan Shearer, chose to play for Newcastle winning far less than he would have had he joined Manchester United, instead opting to move from Blackburn to Newcastle for £15m in 1996, despite Sir Alex Ferguson’s best efforts.
Matt Le Tissier was similarly pursued very hard by Chelsea but chose to stay loyal to his boyhood club, Southampton.
Another form of loyalty is Fernando Torres who left Atletico, an almost forced sale, due to their £350m debt in 2006. He reluctantly left with tears in his eyes, but has since returned to end his career there, despite far more lucrative offers from America and the Middle East.
Loyalty, dignity and a genuine love of the badge, the city, the atmosphere is very rare in the big business of football these days but it is worth something and has a value.
The MLS followers will only ever see Gerrard, Lampard and Andrea Pirlo with diminished powers and that, undoubtedly, tarnishes their memory and legacy. Ronaldo makes the valid point he will only ever finish in a top league. Ronaldo fully understands and embraces the idea of his legacy, and wishes to go down as a pantheon of the sport.
The Wayne Rooney debacle of kissing the Everton badge and then moving to Manchester United twelve months later, is the far more likely scenario in years to come. Alan Smith of Leeds United did a very similar thing moving to arch rivals Man United from Leeds after many gestures and statements of allegiance to Leeds.
People like Alan Shearer, Matt Le Tissier, Totti and De Rossi could have taken the Wayne Rooney route to more trophies but chose to play for (and stay) at their boyhood clubs.
Players such as Carragher, King, Scholes, Giggs, Totti, De Rossi, Le Tissier, Adams and Maldini should be cherished and applauded. That’s a combined 4,585 matches for the respective nine clubs.
Their dying trait of dignity and legacy and should be applauded for adding to the enigma, history and mystique of football.