Column: "Tristiano" Ronaldo's tears of a clown

Associated Press Published: September 7, 2012

PARIS (AP) — When a clown acts sad, we know it is our cue to laugh. It's no different with Cristiano Ronaldo.

By broadcasting to the world that he is "feeling sad" but refusing to say why, Real Madrid's star has invented an amusing new parlor game —"What's eating Tristiano?" — to entertain us in these early days of the European football season when the action on pitches hasn't yet built up a full head of steam.

Could the world's most self-important player perhaps be miffed that Mario Balotelli at Manchester City has better hair? Did his young son make the mistake of asking daddy to get him Lionel Messi's autograph? Did girlfriend Irina Shayk give him nightmares by running their photos through one of those make-me-look-old mobile phone apps, showing him how the beautiful couple will appear when they're wrinkly? Who knows? Who cares?

And that's the fun of it. Beats watching the likes of Albania play Cyprus in the first round of qualifying matches for the 2014 World Cup. With the Champions League not underway until mid-September and, in domestic leagues, Madrid, Manchester United and other major teams still dusting off summer cobwebs and breaking in new recruits, Ronaldo seized the opportunity for self-aggrandizement before the business of football gets truly serious.

Instead of shirt-thumping and fist-pumping, the melancholy one flagged that something was amiss by pointedly chewing his lower lip and not deliriously celebrating his two goals against Granada last weekend. As subtle as a trumpet, the play-acting won't win him an Oscar but it got the desired result: attention.

"That I am feeling sad and have expressed this sadness has created a huge stir," he later stated to his nearly 13 million followers on Twitter. Was that a note of feigned surprise or smug satisfaction?

Genius. Not only did the melodrama generate headlines worldwide — "Rich, good-looking and sad Ronaldo rattles Real" was one in India — — it even got its own Twitter hashtag. (hash)CristianoEstáTristePorque — CristianoIsSadBecause. Twitterati didn't need asking twice to fill in the blanks. One of the funniest guesses so far: "He plucked one eyebrow more than another and now he's not symmetrical."

Cristiano, you tease. He has given us so few clues — just enough to muddy the waters and so pique interest even further.

Saying his sadness stems from unspecified "professional" reasons and that "the people in the club know why" appeared to rule out a broken heart or personal problem.

And that's good, because it wouldn't be half as jolly poking fun at Ronaldo if we knew he had genuine cause to feel sorry for himself.