Paris (AFP) – Cristiano Ronaldo suffered new heartbreak in a European Championship final on Sunday, stretchered off in tears as Portugal battled France in the Euro 2016 final.
French star Dimitri Payet floored Ronaldo with a heavy challenge in the eighth minute. The Portuguese superstar rolled on the turf in agony, was led off for treatment and came back.
After hobbling for several minutes, Ronaldo went off again to have his left leg bandaged.
After trying to accelerate, Ronaldo sat down in tears in the 24th minute and signalled he could not carry on.
He took off the captain’s armband and was carried off on a stretcher.
The 31-year-old Real Madrid striker played in the Portugal side that lost the 2004 European Championship final 1-0 to Greece. Ronaldo crying in defeat has remained one of the enduring images of that tournament.
He had said before the Paris final that he wanted to be “crying for joy” this time.
Ronaldo was replaced by Ricardo Quaresma and disappeared for treatment. He emerged again when referee Mark Clattenburg blew the whistle for 90 minutes to encourage his exhausted teammates for extra time.
Payet had won the ball with a heavy challenge and in the follow-through collided with Ronaldo’s left knee. Payet escaped any sanction from Clattenburg but was himself substituted in the second half.
– Angry mother –
Ronaldo’s mother Dolores Aveiro tweeted angrily: “I cannot see my son like that. The game is about kicking a ball, not injuring an opponent.”
Real Madrid teammate Gareth Bale, whose Wales side were eliminated by Portugal in the semi-finals, tweeted: “Terrible to see Cris come off like that. Hope it’s nothing too bad.”
“Go Cris!!!” said another Real teammate, Brazilian left-back Marcelo. “Everyone is with you. You are great, you have done everything possible!”
Paris was where Brazilian great Ronaldo was taken sick in mysterious circumstances just before the 1998 World Cup final. He did not play and Brazil lost 3-0 to France.
“What is it about Ronaldos in major finals in Paris. What a shame!” said former England captain Gary Lineker on Twitter.
Ronaldo’s early departure deprived him of the chance to beat Michel Platini’s record of nine goals in a single Euro tournament. The Portuguese equalled the record in his side’s semi-final win over Wales.
The superstar’s misfortune caused despair among tens of thousands of Portuguese fans watching the game on giant screens in Lisbon and Paris. Some thought the tackle was deliberate.
“It will be tough without Ronaldo. The French warned they would cancel him out and they succeeded,” said Rafael Silva, 20, watching in Lisbon’s main Praca do Comercio square.
“He was the victim of an attack by Payet,” said 47-year-old Victor Da Silva who was watching the game in a bar in the 14th district of Paris.