After a rocky start, a Piers Morgan interview revealed Cristiano Ronaldo almost joined Man City.
What would Ted Lasso do when facing Man Utd’s current crisis in leadership?
Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo made headlines recently when it was revealed he told Piers Morgan he had been very close to joining Manchester City. He then apparently had a change of heart and went for United instead, seemingly because Sir Alex Ferguson simply said, “no”. The interview also showed the player thinks young footballers are not respecting their older and more experienced teammates. I can't help but wonder: What would Ted Lasso say to Cristiano Ronaldo if he was Man Utd’s coach?
The Problem with a Superstar
It doesn't really matter if you follow football or not. Ronaldo's words (and the general headless chicken situation that followed them) just bring light to something we're all more or less familiar with: Leadership issues. They exist in sports, and they exist in business.
If your organisation has a superstar, for example, a head salesperson that brings in an incredible amount of revenue but seems to be unpopular and has repeated conflicts with other team members, chances are you'll be both impressed and frustrated. Because you know that, no matter how brilliant they are, how much of your company's success they carry on their shoulders, they might be causing more harm than good when it comes to the bigger picture.
I know a lot of people like that. Unfortunately, this kind of person, who can deliver so much to your business, also tends to cause a sort of 'disease'. One of the issues is that, when a person has grown too big for their boots, and they know they can get away with it, they start to see themselves as untouchable. In that case, their genius combined with their attitude can have an impact on everybody. In the case of a company, a cultural misfit can drag everybody in the business down.
And here's the real issue: No matter how good they are, the net effect on your organisation tends to be negative. And when that happens, what do you do? Do you get rid of your superstar for the sake of your company? Because it’s not easy to do so! I think Manchester United made a huge mistake in hiring one of the best football players in the world. The thing is, it’s hard for a team to thrive when there is one person that can make everyone else feel like they are second-class citizens.
A Leadership Problem
There’s little doubt Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the football best players there is. I’m not sure he is the number one; Messi is also an excellent (and arguably better in my eyes) footballer who has also earned his fame. However, Messi doesn't seem to cause the same issues. Even when the team is not doing well (and the Argentinian national team knows this better than anyone), he will always be a team player.
If you ask me, the problem between Manchester United and Ronaldo was causing a net negative effect on the team. He is brilliant, yes, but I bet the other players didn't feel so stellar. As a result, they get frustrated, Ronaldo gets frustrated, and then he goes to have a chat with Piers Morgan, and now everyone is biting their nails. Before we move on, I want to say: I don't think Cristiano Ronaldo is a bad person; not at all. He does a lot of good things, but he also doesn't mind pressing the nuclear button and basically saying: I don't get on with the manager, I don't fit in with the team, and I want to move on. He doesn't pass the ball.
What a dreadful scenario. When watching the interview, I kept thinking about the TV series Ted Lasso and the AFC Richmond striker Jamie Tartt. If you haven't seen the series, don't worry. He's your typical superstar footballer. He's the best; he knows it, the team knows it, and coach Ted Lasso (who plays an American football coach who suddenly turned "real" football coach) knows it. He's the only one scoring, yet his capabilities are leaving everyone else on the team feeling excluded and uninspired. So, I thought we could do a little hypothesising and wonder: What would Ted Lasso tell Cristiano?
If Cristiano Ronaldo was Jamie Tartt
In the series, Ted gives Jamie Tartt several chances to redeem himself and be more of a team player. Ultimately, however, he realises that the only way for the group to be successful is for the star striker to leave (at the end of the first season, Jamie transfers to Man City, of all places).
So, this is not really that different from what's happening now with Manchester United. They had the best player in the world. Yet, he has told Piers Morgan his team-mates "have everything easy; they don't suffer" (not like him and his generation, who grew up in a smartphone-deprived era - not his words exactly, but he did say new technologies distract the youngsters). He also called Ralf Rangnick "not even a coach", which actually does sound a lot like something Jamie Tartt would say to “Trent Crimm, The Independent”.
My point is: What’s happened with Man Utd is a coaching problem. Or rather, a leadership challenge.
No matter how good a person is, if they are not a proper fit for your organisation, they will end up having a negative effect on it as a whole. If a person isn’t a team player, and this causes issues with their colleagues (and particularly if they think they can get away with things because of their skills), the cost you pay is often too high.
Now, how a £2 billion operation did not get this basic thing about coaching is a mystery to me but that's water (and a few quid) under the bridge. The question now is: What can you do in a situation like this? Would you try to educate your Jamie or let him go?
Ted Lasso might be "easy to watch TV", but the show creators have surely addressed one of the best business leadership issues masterfully. Which is that you can't tolerate these things, these behaviours. Ted knows nothing about football, but he knows about people. He's also a great person and takes that goodness with him wherever he goes, but he is one who knows that when a whole team is suffering… it might be time to let go of your star.
So, to answer the question of whether Ted Lasso would fire Cristiano Ronaldo. After that interview, I think he would.