July 1 has been a key date in Cristiano Ronaldo’s illustrious career.
On July 1, 2009, the Portuguese superstar completed his world-record £80 million move from Manchester United to Real Madrid.
And three years earlier – on July 1, 2006 – Ronaldo became public enemy number one in England for his role in Wayne Rooney’s sending off against Portugal.
Rooney was shown a straight red card by referee Horacio Elizondo for stamping on defender Ricardo Carvalho.
But would Elizondo have sent Rooney off without Ronaldo’s controversial intervention?
Ronaldo, much to Rooney’s disbelief, protested to the match official about the severity of the foul.
Elizondo subsequently flashed the red card at Rooney, while Ronaldo was caught on camera winking towards the Portugal bench as if to say ‘job done’ shortly afterwards.
It was this wink which infuriated the English public.
“I think there is every chance that Wayne Rooney could go back to the United training ground and stick one on Ronaldo,” Alan Shearer said live on the BBC after reviewing the incident.
That Ronaldo was the player who stepped up and scored the winning penalty in the shootout, condemning England to heartache at yet another major international tournament, made him all the more unpopular in the country where he earned his living.
Peter Crouch came on as a second-half substitute in that 2006 World Cup quarter-final and genuinely thought that Rooney and Ronaldo would never speak again.
“I was on the bus on the way back from the game. We see the footage of him winking and Rooney’s not happy, obviously, he’s fuming – he’s just been played,” the retired striker recently said on That Peter Crouch Podcast.
“I think that did happen [Rooney texting Ronaldo asking ‘what the f*** was that?’]. There were definitely words exchanged.
“At first he was like ‘I’m never talking to him again’, ‘I’m not going to go back there and speak to him’.
“I remember Gary Neville was angry – obviously a teammate of Ronaldo’s – I remember us being so down and Wayne being gutted about it.”
But despite Rooney’s initial anger, the fiery forward quickly realised that he’d need to forgive Ronaldo for the good of Manchester United.
Ronaldo had been inconsistent at times during his first three seasons at Old Trafford but clearly had the potential to become one of the world’s best players.
And Rooney knew that United would be in a difficult situation had he decided to hold a grudge.
In a 2017 interview, Sir Alex Ferguson revealed: “I have to say that on that occasion, Rooney was fantastic and managed the situation very well.
“He came to me and asked if he and Cristiano should do an interview together to silence all the critics before the start of season.
“I told him that the idea did not seem wise. I thought that it was some sort of gimmick, and I do not like gimmicks.”
Rooney’s decision to immediately make the peace led to three hugely successful seasons for the Red Devils until Rooney’s eventual departure in 2009.
It’s no exaggeration to suggest that Rooney was partly responsible for saving Ronaldo’s United career.
Had he decided to remain angry there would have been a problem, and it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Ronaldo would have been sold.
“The media created a big drama which never existed. So when I arrived back in England I was kind of afraid, not because of Rooney but because of England supporters,” Ronaldo admitted in an interview with Goalhanger.
“They made a huge story when I did the wink, but it was not because of the circumstances with Rooney, it was another situation.
“It was difficult timing for me because I thought when I arrived in Manchester, people were going to boo me in all the stadiums.
“But it’s the past, I had a chat with Rooney when I arrived back in Manchester. We are still friends, we speak about that and he understands my point of view.
“Of course, he helped me in all circumstances. He said: ‘Cristiano, this is the past, let’s speak about the present, let’s win trophies together’.”
And win trophies they did.
United, inspired by Rooney and Ronaldo, ended up winning the Premier League in 2007, 2008 and 2009.
They also won the Champions League in 2008, plus the FIFA Club World Cup in the same year.
As for the mutual respect between Ronaldo and Rooney… well, that will last forever.
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