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Football | Champions League

Cristiano Ronaldo © Action Images

Ronaldo to face City and Real fans

Tuesday will be a big day for Real Madrid - and also for Cristiano Ronaldo.

That's when the Spanish giants will start their Champions League campaign, in difficult Group D at home to Premier League champions Manchester City.

Group D has been labelled the "Group of Death" because of the presence of the league champions from four important countries: Real, City, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax.

Jose Mourinho's team will have to put behind them their appalling Spanish league form, if they want to make a good start in Europe.

The whites have picked up just four points from their first four games, and are already eight points behind arch-rivals Barcelona, an unprecedented distance at this stage of the season.

As usual, Mourinho will be looking to compatriot Ronaldo for goals and spark in attack. But how will the Real fans receive Ronaldo on Tuesday?

The Portuguese striker will have to face the fans for the first time since his bizarre, enigmatic outburst of September 2.

After scoring twice in the 3-0 defeat of Granada, Ronaldo stunned the fans and media by saying he had not celebrated his goals "because I am sad, and the club knows why this is."

He has refused to elaborate on his complaint, which has been interpreted in two ways. Firstly, that he wants a pay rise - from 10 million (13.1 million dollars) per year to 15 million - in order to earn the same as the world's top paid players.

Last Wednesday Ronaldo met with Real president Florentino Perez, who reportedly told the striker he was disappointed with his outburst. However, it seems that Perez also told him that he will shortly have a pay rise.

The second interpretation placed by the media on Ronaldo's explosion is that he is annoyed at not receiving more support from the club and his teammates in his bid to win the Fifa World Player award in December.

Apparently, Ronaldo was furious at Marcelo and Xabi Alonso both having said that the award should go to Real and Spain captain Iker Casillas, who was outstanding for Spain at Euro 2012.

On August 29 Ronaldo had to put up with third place in the European Footballer of the Year award - behind Barcelona stars Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi - and looked miserable at the awards ceremony in Monte Carlo, in front of the watching world.

Ronaldo's campaign for more money and more recognition has gone down very badly with the Real fans.

Online polls have shown a big majority of fans opposed to him having a pay rise, whilst supporters' blogs have reflected anger at a multi-millionaire asking for a raise in a country of 25 per cent unemployment, pay reductions for public sector workers, and drastic cuts in public services.

Many fans have called him a disgrace to the club, have asked Perez to sell him - and have vowed to jeer him on Tuesday.

He has also been criticised for his selfishness on the field, and for his insistence on taking practically all of the free-kicks.

Even Marca, which has always been positive about Ronaldo, said that the forward risked becoming a figure of ridicule and even loathing with his attitude.

On Sunday Radio station Cadena SER asked whether Ronaldo would be greeted with jeers and boos on Tuesday.

His lethargic, apathetic display on Saturday in Real's 1-0 defeat at Sevilla will not have endeared him to the fans.

Ronaldo's situation is almost unprecedented in the history of world football. How many teams has it happened that a team's leading goal-scorer is unpopular with many, if not most, of the fans?

How is it possible that a player who has scored 151 goals in 150 games -since his record-breaking move from Manchester United in 2009 - receives more jeers than cheers?

Tuesday's game could either see Ronaldo booed by his own fans, or - as he himself and president Perez are hoping - the start of his reconciliation with them


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