A picture essay of Cristiano Ronaldo going through the stages of grief against Juventus

Real Madrid will not be playing in a second consecutive UEFA Champions League final next month. There are many reasons why that’s true. One of the primary reasons, however, is the most basic: It did not score enough times.

That’s significantly Gareth Bale’s fault, because it’s our official position on things to assign fault when things go wrong. Some people blame Obama; we blame Bale. But if we’re being honest, some of that blame falls squarely on the cartoonishly broad shoulders of Real Madrid leader Cristiano Ronaldo.

During the first half, Ronaldo was presented with a golden opportunity to give Madrid a 2-0 advantage. But things didn’t work out. His body language suggested he knew he blew an opportunity.

But the cynic in me wondered if Ronaldo was planning to release a documentary style film after the season, and if what we were witnessing was actually one of the most emotionally compelling scenes ever filmed on a soccer field.

It took me a minute, but I realized the beauty of what I was watching: Cristiano Ronaldo took us through the all the stages of grieving in a matter of seconds. Let me help you see things properly.

1. Realization

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When millions are watching, it’s hard to ignore missing a golden opportunity to score. But missing a golden opportunity, at home, in a Champions League semifinal second leg, will sit with you for a hot second. And even though it’s best to work on having a short memory, some things will mess with you for a couple of extra seconds. This was one of those moments. And it damn near broke Ronaldo. You could see him wondering: “Why me?” And rightly so, because Bale was also on the field and could’ve missed the goal. He did that several times in the second half.

2. Feeling

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After realizing the missed opportunity, Ronaldo amazingly gave himself space to feel. He found a free post and leaned to collect himself. Shame weighs a lot, and two legs often can’t carry that weight, even when you lift a lot of weights like Ronaldo. A few seconds of absorbing all the feelings felt like an eternity to all those watching, wondering what in the hell was happening.

3. Coping

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There was much for the Ballon d’Or winner to consider. But you could tell in his eyes that he was trying to make sense of things. “But I’m Cristiano Ronaldo. I can’t just take off my shirt. I need to score first. Or do I?” He was making this right. With himself. Others would have to wait. You can’t be right with others if you can’t first be right with yourself.

4. Understanding

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This one really hurts, but Cristiano began to understand what happened, in context. He was on a soccer field, dealing. Just like he’d done in the past. Others were also hurting. The fans, his teammates (except for Bale), the coaches and staff, Nando Vila. And that’s OK, he realized.

5. Reflecting

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Mantras work, here. “I’m Cristiano and I’m a good person. I’m Cristiano and I’m a good person. I’m Cristiano and I’m a good person. I’m Cristiano and I’m a good person. I’m Cristiano and I’m a good person. I’m Cristiano and I’m a good person. I’m Cristiano and I’m a good person. I’m Cristiano and I’m a good person. I’m Cristiano and I’m a good person. I’m Cristiano and I’m a good person. I’m Cristiano and I’m a good person. I’m Cristiano and I’m a good person. I’m Cristiano and I’m a good person. I’m Cristiano and I’m a good person.” You probably believe this now.

6. Expressing

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*sobs; unleashes a deep man-cry sounding like a wounded wolf dying in a canyon* “UUUUUUUUUUUUNNNNNNNGGGGGGGAAAAAAAAA.” That’s how Cristiano cries.

7. Coming to terms

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“I can’t believe this is happening but I can take some solace in knowing that Gareth will miss several sitters later … oh shit, this is going to be a Vine.”

8. Moving on

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“Noooooooooooooooo. Chicharito or Bale. One of them has to go down for this.”

What an amazing display of emotional excellence from Ronaldo. He will be missed during the final.

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