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Shirtless Ronaldo Watches In Horror As VAR Chalks Off Stoppage-Time Winner

In terms of late-career Cristiano Ronaldo, you get the feeling that this is the exact script that the Portuguese legend would write if you handed him the pen. 

It’s the tale of an unsung legend, a man so repressed by the slings and arrows of detractors, naysayers and charlatans — however real or largely imagined — that he’s been humbly driven to a spot on the bench in the opening game of the season.

But “love makes me strong, your hate makes me unstoppable” is the Ronaldo mantra, and up steps the forgotten man to deliver like he so often does. It’s a stoppage-time winner; not so much a goal for Juventus FC as it is for the CR7 personal brand. 

The top comes off. Tonight’s Instagram post, accompanied by a flurry of shushing face and flexing bicep emojis, promises to break Lionel Messi’s stranglehold on the top-liked positions . . . enter that killjoy known as the VAR.

How did we get here? How — perhaps only fittingly like Messi before him at Barcelona — is Ronaldo’s future shifting so chaotically from day to day?   

Last week, Ronaldo posted a lengthy response to all the transfer rumors on Instagram. Primarily, it seemed like El Chiringuito — an over the top sports TV show in Spain — had drawn the majority of Ronaldo’s rage by linking him with a sensational return to Real Madrid, but the Juventus striker’s message wasn’t so much concerned with the upcoming Serie A season or his commitment to the club. It really just read like a staunch defending of his own brand, while only defining “the actual truth” as being ever prepared “for all the challenges that I have to face.”

But while the post didn’t exactly point to happy times at Allianz Stadium, we got a definitive answer from Juve boss Massimiliano Allegri on Saturday before the opening game of the season.

“He has always trained well, I just read the gossip in the papers. He never told us he wanted to leave,” Allegri told a news conference ahead of the Udinese match. “Ronaldo told me that he is staying at Juventus.”

That was that.

However, Juve’s first starting XI of the season on Sunday revealed that Ronaldo had been dropped to the bench. According to Italian media, the 36-year-old made the request himself in order to help facilitate a move away.

Juve’s first-half performance without Ronaldo would’ve given supporters hope. Paulo Dybala opened the scoring only three minutes into the match off Rodrigo Bentancur’s feed.

Then Dybala found Juan Cuadrado for Juve’s second in the 23rd minute.  

But Wojciech Szczęsny let Udinese back into the match. First, the Juve goalkeeper spilled an effort from distance before bringing down Tolgay Arslan on the follow-up attempt. 

Roberto Pereyra converted the resulting penalty. 

Ronaldo entered the match on the hour mark, but Udinese found the equalizer in the 83rd minute after Gerard Deulofeu punished more terrible play from Szczęsny.   

However, five minutes into second-half stoppage time, Ronaldo appeared to have grabbed a dramatic winner but the VAR eventually chalked it off for offside after a lengthy review. 

Juventus vice president Pavel Nedvěd quickly responded to the latest rumors, saying that Ronaldo started on the bench for sporting reasons. There’s no reason to believe anyone at this point.

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