The timing could not have been worse. Cristiano Ronaldo celebrated his 30th birthday with an extravagant party along with coaches, staff and players on Saturday just hours after Real Madrid’s humiliating derby defeat at Atletico Madrid.
The event was pre-planned, with friends of the three-time Ballon d’Or winner travelling from overseas to join him in the Spanish capital. But after a woeful performance both collectively and individually against Atleti in the 4-0 defeat at the Vicente Calderon, the party proved a PR disaster for both Madrid and Ronaldo.
Images were leaked to the press and on social media of Cristiano and Colombian singer Kevin Roldan, who also published pictures on Twitter, and the party was reminiscent of the 2003 celebration of Brazilian striker Ronaldo which also caused controversy for Real.
Back then, Claude Makelele and coach Vicente del Bosque had just left the club and celebrity culture was spinning out of control in the first Florentino Perez project. Ronaldo’s 27th birthday bash at his home in La Moraleja was attended by most of Madrid’s squad at the time including David Beckham, Raul, Roberto Carlos, Luis Figo and even Zinedine Zidane, along with a string of models, while the picture of a tearful Vania Millan (a former Miss Spain and now wife of Sergio Ramos’ brother Rene) found its way into the media just like the images of Cristiano singing on Saturday.
The departure of Makelele and Del Bosque meant indiscipline had set in. And although Real started the season strongly, it was the beginning of the end for the first Galactico project as Madrid ended up without a trophy that year and Perez ultimately left the club following a barren spell which ran until 2006.
“It wasn’t only due to Makelele leaving,” Zidane told Goal. “There were several, one per line: [Fernando] Hierro, Makelele, [Fernando] Morientes and Del Bosque as well. Four at the same time.”
“Makelele leaving was one of the reasons, but it wasn’t only him. And when you change a winning team, it’s never good. You have to leave a winning team alone, let it confirm itself. What happened at the time is that four or five players and the coach left. It went wrong after that.”
Discipline was lost, the balance was upset, the party was over. And just over a decade later, another Ronaldo fiesta threatens to destabilise a successful side once again.
Madrid ended 2014 with a record 22 straight victories in all competitions and Cristiano celebrated his third Ballon d’Or win in January, but double defeat to Atletico in Copa and Liga and a loss at Valencia straight after the winter break have seen Real ruffled in 2015. Fans were left frustrated but, while they reflected on a painful derby day, the Portuguese partied on Saturday night.
A banner reading “your laughter, our shame” was unfurled by two supporters outside the club’s training ground earlier this week, while another fan shouted “more balls and less parties” to the former Manchester United man as he drove out of Wednesday’s session.
Ronaldo’s agent Jorge Mendes and former Madrid winger Figo both defended the forward this week.
Meanwhile, coach Carlo Ancelotti stressed in his pre-match press conference ahead of Saturday’s game against Deportivo that he had no problem with Ronaldo’s party.
“The party is not an issue for me. I have never judged the private lives of players and will not begin now,” he told the media.
“I have no doubts about the professionalism of the players. They can do what they want out of work as long as it doesn’t affect their professional work.”
However, the party set a tone that is far removed from the image of discipline and professionalism needed at one of the world’s greatest clubs and Ancelotti will now need to manage the situation behind closed doors or face a Galactico meltdown similar to the one which rocked the team in 2003.