Martin Samuel: So Ronaldo like his tummy tickled? Well do it, Real!

So Ronaldo likes his tummy tickled Well do it, Real!

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UPDATED:

23:08 GMT, 18 September 2012

A good time to face Cristiano Ronaldo There isn't one. Sad or happy, feeling the love or feeling cold- shouldered, unless one of his legs drops off, he is still best avoided.

And even then, don't rush into it. Real Madrid won because they had him. If he had played in a Manchester City shirt they would have won instead.

If he was still on the books at Manchester United, City would not have arrived at the Bernabeu as the reigning English champions.

High maintenance: Cristiano Ronaldo proved he is worth the aggravation by scoring the winner against Manchester City

High maintenance: Cristiano Ronaldo proved he is worth the aggravation by scoring the winner against Manchester City

High maintenance: Cristiano Ronaldo is worth the aggravation

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No team that included Ronaldo would
lose a title on goal difference. He would make sure of that. He has
played 152 games for Madrid and scored 151 goals.

He thinks more fuss should be made of him. The numbers suggest it, too. And, yes, he was greedy.

And yes he shot when he should have
passed and attempted to beat Joe Hart from 40 yards, which is arrogant
and insulting in equal measure, and all of these moments were
infuriating and will have caused those who cannot see the wonder of the
player to tut their disapproval.

And then he popped up with a minute
to go and scored the goal that won the game, heaped the pressure on
Manchester City in Europe and delivered the three home points that are
absolutely vital in this, the toughest Champions League group.

And in that instant, all the flaws,
the selfish punts, the over-ambitious hoofs, the third stepover when a
cross could have been delivered, paled into insignificance.

Ronaldo wins match. Again. Ronaldo scores winner. Again. Ronaldo the decider. Again.

What a marvel he is. The thing with
Ronaldo's goal was that he could have been pixelated in the images
broadcast around the world and everybody would still have known it was
him.

Not just because the shot came from Madrid's left, either. It was the way the ball arrived.

Hit hard, yes, but also dipping at the last, like the arch of a bucking bronco. Nobody else shoots like that.

All the footballers in the world and
only one has created a technique to deliver the ball in an entirely
unique style, and at pace.

A Ronaldo shot could almost be
patented. It is as instantly recognisable as the Cruyff turn, except it
is not so easily imitable.

If it was, everyone would be doing it
by now. Ronaldo received help, obviously. Pablo Zabaleta, performing
the difficult task of making Maicon look the most comfortable right back
of the night, should have stopped the move earlier.

Vincent Kompany, inexplicably, ducked
out of blocking the shot – the cardinal defensive sin, according to
Jose Mourinho – Hart allowed it to pass under his body, and was fingered
by his manager Roberto Mancini as the main culprit.

Last-gasp: Ronaldo scored the late winner for Real Madrid over Manchester City

Last-gasp: Ronaldo scored the late winner for Real Madrid over Manchester City

Last-gasp: Ronaldo scored the late winner for Real Madrid over Manchester City

It was, indisputably, Ronaldo's
goal, though. It came about because he never lets the pressure off,
never gives the opposing defence a break and in the end, 151 times out
of 152, he gets through.

Ronaldo did not score against
Sevilla on Saturday so, on average, he was due one tonight. That is how
good he is. Maicon was probably suffering post-traumatic stress disorder
after his chasing from Gareth Bale in this competition two years ago
and one can only hope Mancini consulted his specialist before selecting
him to go head-to-head with Ronaldo here.

The Portuguese had four shots at goal
in the first 12 minutes, two of them forcing saves from Hart. For the
last, he left Maicon behind, much as a speedboat would a jetty, before
forcing a quite brilliant save.

Hart was plainly about to earn a
month's money in one night and his costly mistake came only after 89
preceding minutes of sheer brilliance.

Mancini's criticism was quite harsh.
If the belief was that Maicon would pin Real Madrid back on Ronaldo's
flank it proved somewhat misguided.

Ronaldo doesn't defend much anyway,
no matter what the opposition full back chooses to do, and his permanent
deployment in City's half so frightened the Brazilian that he remained
rooted to a spot by his side.

If he grew in confidence after
half-time it was only because Kompany had clearly been detailed to
provide support, even if the plan failed to hold up at the end.

Kick-start: Such a dramatic win could be a catalyst for Mourinho's side's stuttering season

Kick-start: Such a dramatic win could be a catalyst for Mourinho's side's stuttering season

City were ahead twice against the run
of play, having done nothing in the first half to test a Real Madrid
defence that has been less than convincing this season.

Credit Ronaldo for that, too. He gives the opposition such cause to fear that any prior game plan is quickly forgotten.

On paper, City's team looked
attack-minded. In reality, they were kept so busy standing guard against
Ronaldo, Gonzalo Higuain through the centre and Angel di Maria on the
opposite flank that Mancini may as well have played a rearguard of 10.

Returning the cup with the big ears –
as Ruud Gullit once called it – to Madrid is without doubt Mourinho's
primary aim this season and when Ronaldo scored his explosion of joy
said as much.

He sprinted from the dug-out, fists
pumping and slid on the knees of his fine Adolfo Dominguez suit on to
the pitch. Ronaldo let it all out, too.

Sad no more, he knew how important
that goal was for his team. It puts Madrid on the front foot in Group D
and creates extra stress for City against German champions Borussia
Dortmund next month.

Unlucky: Ronaldo consoled his former team-mate Carlos Tevez in Madrid

Unlucky: Ronaldo consoled his former team-mate Carlos Tevez in Madrid

High maintenance Naturally he's high
maintenance. Many of the best people are. CR7 wants the club to
campaign for him as World Footballer of the Year, he wants the fans to
sing his name, he wants love, love, love.

Yet the sprinkling of stone-cold genius that Ronaldo brings to Madrid's football craves these moments of indulgence.

So he likes his tummy tickled Give
him a tummy tickle. If Madrid won't, plenty will, and should. Starting
with Tuesday's opponents.