In the euphoria that has followed underdogs Portugal upstaging France, debate on the tackle in Sunday’s European championship final that could have turned it a romp for the hosts has not grabbed the headlines.
A limping Ronaldo was a picture of delight in the end, the Portugal skipper even howling in delight as he hugged his former Manchester United manager, Alex Ferguson, at the Stade de France.
But the subject of discussion is the seventh minute challenge on Ronaldo by Dimitri Payet that eventually forced the forward to be stretchered off in tears.
The big question is whether getting a touch on the ball first is good enough to get away with such tackles, especially in an era where referees are committed to protecting the creative players on the pitch.
The French midfielder rushed in as Ronaldo received a pass, flicking the ball away with his left foot and clattering into the Portugal forward’s planted left foot.
That the Real Madrid star was hemmed in by Payet and Patrice Evra raises doubts whether the intention was only to win the ball.
The tackle happened during the early phase of the final when the French players adopted a robust game.
English referee Mark Clattenburg did not penalise Payet as he had got a touch on the ball first. But TV replays suggested it was a foul. There seemed little justification to run into a player who was almost stationary.
After the game, Portugal manager Fernando Santos wasn’t happy that Clattenburg didn’t even show Payet the yellow card.
There was little doubt how the Portugal players saw the incident. Defender Cedric Soares’ high knee into Payet’s back on the pretext of challenging for a header had retaliation written all over it.
He was cautioned, but it seemed a possible red. Was Clattenburg making amends for letting Payet off earlier? Was he influenced by Ronaldo was put out of the game due to that crunching challenge?
Football has waged a constant battle against cynical fouls. Pele and Maradona braved them to win World Cups. Dutch great Marco van Basten retired prematurely, after receiving constant attention from rival defenders and one knock too many on his ankles.
When the dust settles on Euro 2016, and the extent of Ronaldo’s injury becomes clear, the Payet tackle is sure to be revisited many times.
Many former players, including former England defender, Rio Ferdinand, and Ryan Giggs, both Ronaldo’s former Man United teammates, have said Payet should not be blamed for the injury.
Ferdinand told the BBC: “He didn’t have the intention to hurt Ronaldo, he just wanted to put a strong tackle in and let him know he was there.
“It’s the type of thing you say before you go into a game. You don’t want to injure anyone, you just want to be physical. It’s unfortunate Ronaldo’s studs got caught in the turf and he twisted his knee.”
Giggs added: ‘He’s not renowned for his tackling, so sometimes it looks clumsy. I think that’s all it is, clumsy.”
But the incident came at the climax of a championship where little leniency was shown for handling the ball inside the area --- Germany skipper Bastian Shweinsteiger got a harsh decision when the penalty was awarded against the run of play in the semifinal defeat against France.
Will referees interpret such tackles that take the man more than the ball differently from now on?