Fans questioned the wisdom of a training session starring Portugal’s all-time top goalscorer, who was pictured practising his shooting and taking part in drills as part of a small group at the tiny Estádio da Madeira, which is close to his home and usually hosts Primeira Liga side CD Nacional.
The tune-up is the second time Ronaldo has been seen going through his paces outside this week after he posted a video of himself taking part in hill sprints on a road with girlfriend Georgina Rodriguez on Thursday, praising his “beautiful training partner” to his Instagram following of more than 212 million.
Pedro Ramos, the regional secretary of health who confirmed that Ronaldo was asymptomatic for the virus last month, said the five-time Ballon d’Or winner had not required “special permission” to train, but nonetheless warned that the rules must be respected.
“Cristiano Ronaldo has the right to train as long as he respects the rules like all citizens, there is no privilege,” Ramos said.
“I would not like it to be trivialized because we are all responsible,” Ramos added, offering measured approval to Ronaldo’s session.
“All citizens can leave the house and do so, as long as they do not cause gatherings and maintain a safe distance during the exercise. Therefore, Ronaldo did what we have seen.
“There was no special authorization because we are all the same, we are all facing the same pandemic. The best player in the world must use his image to set an example, but Cristiano seems to me to have done just a few minutes of exercise…there is no harm in the world.”
Ronaldo has encouraged his vast audiences to keep fit during the coronavirus pandemic, reflecting on “another week of playing inside and staying active” in a video challenge, The Living Room Cup, on Saturday.
His return to a pitch could indicate an imminent return to Italy, where sources suggest that overseas players are expected to return to their Serie A clubs next week, facing a 14-day spell in quarantine in line with health regulations as footballing authorities ponder a possible return to action.
A swift resumption of fixtures could be required to complete the season in timely fashion once Serie A receives the go-ahead to safely start again, which could explain why some of the division’s leading figures have been publicly spotted sharpening their skills since the suspension of the league on March 10.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, a rival to Ronaldo in his role as AC Milan’s main goal threat, was pictured training with Hammarby in his homeland of Sweden earlier this week.
Italian football was originally suspended until April 3 but is now unlikely to return for at least another month after the national lockdown was extended until May 3.
Hours after taking part in training, Ronaldo used his profile as the most followed athlete in the world on social media to promote the Portuguese Red Cross, publishing a picture showing him wearing a mask adorned in his nation’s colours and writing: “In this very difficult moment for our world it is important we unite and support each other. Let’s all do what we can to help.”
Major names in sport, including UFC champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and Portugal Women’s Player of the Year Jessica Silva, replied to the post with messages of support.
Ronaldo’s much talked about dedication was discussed by one of his former coaches in a webinar in support of healthcare efforts in the UK on Thursday.
Mike Phelan, who played a key part in training sessions when Ronaldo was at Manchester United, called the 35-year-old’s drive “fantastic” and recalled making him “do things he didn’t want to do” in order to help him become one of the greatest players in history.
“We had to try to get Cristiano to be a team player and he got it,” Phelan told The Coaching Manual. “In the end, he got it.
“Especially when the success came and after he moved to Real Madrid, there were certain things – when observing games at Madrid – that he definitely picked up at Manchester United.
“He was translating that further up the ladder of excellence. That’s important and there’s a satisfaction there. I don’t claim to have created Cristiano Ronaldo. A lot of people have influenced him. But the biggest influence has been himself.”