Cristiano Ronaldo’s elimination from the World Cup was followed by tributes from many sports superstars such as Pele, Kylian Mbappe and LeBron James.
The Portugal captain said his dream of winning the trophy is over, after his fifth World Cup ended in a quarter-final defeat to Morocco. Now 37, Ronaldo has admitted the 2022 Qatar tournament was his last World Cup, even though the Madeiran phenom has never uttered the word to retire.
Ronaldo lost his place in the squad he started on the bench against both Switzerland and Morocco. Incidentally, he became the first player to score in five different World Cups, having found the net in each edition since 2006, and he is also the greatest goalscorer in the history of international football. However, he has never scored in a match in the knockout stages of the World Cup, a break in an otherwise very successful career.
Reactions were swift, as evidenced by Ronaldo’s emotional Instagram message, in which he described the goal of World Cup glory as “the biggest and most ambitious dream of my career”.
The great LeBron James, multiple NBA champion, said that Ronaldo is a “LEGEND!!!”, and the Los Angeles Lakers star added a greeting, a thank you and a crown emoji to his message.
Three-time World Cup winner Pele, who follows the tournament closely from his hospital bed in Brazil, wrote: “Thank you for making us smile, my friend.”
Mbappe, who helped France beat England 2-1 to reach the semi-finals on Saturday, responded to Ronaldo with three emojis. It features a goat, referencing Ronaldo’s “greatest of all time” credentials, plus joined hands to signal his thanks and a crown.
British journalist Piers Morgan, a recent interviewer and supporter of Ronaldo, sent a message containing six sets of clapping hands.
Former Brazil striker Pato wrote to Ronaldo: “You are an example! You inspire people and children all over the world. The same people who criticize you are those who want your own success. You are a giant! Congratulations.”
Jesse Lingard, former teammate of Ronaldo at Manchester United, seems to have mixed up the acronyms, writing “GAOT”.