Of course, if Cristiano Ronaldo was receiving shrewd advice, then this is what would have happened over the past few days.
Long before arriving in Nyon for the UEFA Gala and the Champions League draw last Thursday, he would have been briefed on a strategy. It would have gone like this:
If, for the sake of argument, Cris, either Messi or -- heaven forbid -- Andres Iniesta wins the UEFA Best Player award then you give a little "Well, there you go" gesture with your hands and a shrug of the shoulders before reaching over to shake the hand of the winner with a big, cheery smile. On no account, under any circumstances, do you let any hurt show.
You see, Cris, it's your job to score the goals and win the trophies but we, your advisors, have been studying the voting criteria for the Ballon d'Or and those who have the power to give you that award in January have a number of things to take into account. It isn't simply about trophies and goals, although they are prime criteria. The voting advice specifically says that the journalists, FIFA captains and national coaches are free to take into account "fair play," plus achievements logged up over a career in general if it's hard to separate a couple of candidates.
More or less, it's a "Vote for who you like for whichever reason you like" clause. We need to activate it somehow.
For some reason, people don't love you just as much as you, and we, think should be the case, but this is a chance to change the script. You told us to brief everyone last season that you were going to cut down on the histrionics on the pitch when things weren't to your liking. We did that, people noticed, you managed to change your public image a little bit, score a record number of goals and win the Spanish title. That was a "so far, so good" moment.
But if you happen to not lift the UEFA trophy this week, just make sure people admire and appreciate your reaction, as opposed to that horrible face you made when Kaka beat you to it and Messi was third in 2007.
I'm pretty sure that there was no such strategy and, certainly, the player's reaction was comical. As was Lionel Messi's reaction when he spotted how thunderously unhappy Ronaldo was and seemed to very nearly start giggling.
Were a proper strategy in place, Ronaldo would have fully celebrated his two goals against Granada this past weekend and had the "cojones" to assemble the media postmatch if he really, truly needed to declare his unhappiness.
What he did, in failing to celebrate, was to invite questions about "What's wrong, fella?" from the Spanish media. It was pretty teenage. "Hey, guys, look, I'm over here and I'm not happy … HELLO, is anyone listening?"
The grown-up thing to do would have been to sort out the problems behind the scenes, whether that be with Iker Casillas, Aitor Karanka, Jose Mourinho, Marcelo, the Spanish taxman, club president Florentino Perez or a couple of roguish journalists. Or, equally, Ronaldo could have called a news conference to grab the bull by the horns rather than hint that it was time to ask something.
So I'm not by any means in love with the way in which Ronaldo has broadcast his sulks, nor with the idea that sulking is the mature way forward. However, I can fully understand how he might be feeling.
In Manchester United, Ronaldo pushed his way out of a better-run club where he was well-loved and where there was a terrific level of backup for him and his lifestyle in order to join his "dream" club, Real Madrid. In fact, he turned down Barcelona on the way to doing so.
From that day to this one, there have been highlights. He's well-paid, and recently there has been the dramatic sight of Madrid not only cutting the distance on Barcelona but matching and, occasionally, overhauling them. Impressive.
However, it's a divided, politically charged club where Ronaldo has often found himself at odds with the media, with fellow players and even with his coach. If it sounds diva-esque to want special treatment, then perhaps that's because it's what exceptional people expect.
Ronaldo is Madrid's most valuable player in sporting and financial terms. He covets the Ballon d'Or, he's going to need financial bonuses if he's to renew his contract, and it's very clear that he doesn't feel fully loved by Real Madrid the institution, Real Madrid's fans and, I'd say, Real Madrid's two most senior Spanish players in the current squad.
Different people react to situations like that in varying ways. Most of us wouldn't have behaved the way Ronaldo has done these past few days. But his behavior should not overshadow the fact that he's an utterly exceptional player and that, just as importantly, things could have easily been done to anticipate and avoid this situation.
Real Madrid has a degree of implication in a problem that must not be allowed to mushroom if this is to be a Champions League-winning season for Los Blancos.
The perils of the market
I know of an admirable talent-spotter and talent developer in Spanish football who is prone to teasing his president. "How long ago was it that I told you we should buy Isco from Valencia B?" he asked his big boss this week.
"I guess it must have been about two and a half years ago," came the response.
"Wrong, Mr. President, it was just over 19 million euros ago," he was told.
Isco is the young Spanish playmaker at Malaga who is emblematic of manager Mauricio Pellegrini's admirable decisions to stand his ground in the face of devastatingly poor administration at the Qatar-owned club and fight for the dream of Champions League football which both he -- and, more importantly, the fans -- hold dear.
Over two surprisingly straightforward matches against Olympiakos, Isco sparkled, thus earning Malaga its biggest-ever payday via qualification to the Champions League group stage and sealing off any possibility that he might be sold to clear more of the Andalusian club's debts.
He has an Iniesta-like capacity to dribble past a slalom-pole sequence of opponents and, also, to emerge from a tight cluster of markers. Once he improves his decision-making around the penalty area -- when to pass, when to shoot, how to convert chances more regularly -- you can expect he'll move to a bigger club and, I'd wager, press extremely hard to be a major part of Spain's attempt to retain the World Cup in Brazil.
But I mention Isco and the president who failed to move on his talent-spotter's recommendation simply as an indication of what a tricksy beast the transfer market is.
The phrase "I saw that kid and recommended him to the club two, three, even four seasons ago but the boss wouldn't listen" (or variations of that phrase) is the stock-in-trade of the frustrated football scout.
You don't often hear them admitting "Boy, I recommended a real turkey in that guy," but if you speak to these football frontiersmen you do hear sob story after sob story.
It's a traders' market skill -- buy short, sell long, buy early, sell at the peak moment. Be ahead of the game and convince key people to back you. Bulls and bears.
But there are many more bear pits than simply spotting a gem. For example, this week Levante are feeling both foolish and angry.
Do you recall Lassad Nouioui? He's a Marseille-born Tunisian international striker who spent the past few years blowing hot and cold at Deportivo La Coruna, but whose basic creative talents made him a bit of a steal now that he is out of contract and thus available on a free transfer.
Last Saturday at 2.30 a.m. (CET) Levante president Quico Catalan reached an agreement with a "representative" of Lassad. Contract talks were concluded and the player would join the Valencia club immediately to augment a squad which, for the first time ever, would have to cope with three competitions: La Liga, La Copa and the Europa League. However, it turned out that either this representative doesn't speak for Lassad or completed the deal without his player's full consent, because about 18 hours later the striker flew into Glasgow, passed a medical and signed for Celtic.
Quico Catalan is justifiably upset, embarrassed and angry.
But it is a small black mark for the proud little Valencian club, which has traded with epic skill of late. I've detailed in this space before that Levante wasn't just a sick club; it was about to have its life-support system switched off a few years ago. Debts were huge, players went unpaid for the better part of two seasons (a benefit game was needed to resolve that issue) and administration threatened to turn into liquidation.
Since Catalan, a shrewd young businessman, took over, Levante have surged up from the second division right into the European elite, created and kept to a really firm debt-repayment scheme and, most importantly, played the market brilliantly.
At first they picked up scraps. Free players, old players, injured players -- if Barca, Madrid, Valencia and Atletico Madrid dealt in the sleekest, newest products, Levante bought scrap metal.
But they were two steps ahead of the game. Discarded players -- Javi Venta, Asier Del Horno, Sergio Ballesteros -- flourished at Levante.
Two beautiful moves were signing Xavi Torres and Arouna Kone on loan during the past year of their contracts with Malaga and Sevilla, respectively, signing them full-time the instant their deals with those clubs expired in June, and then instantly selling the pair on (to Wigan and Getafe) for a total of 6.5 million euros. The bean counters at Sevilla and Malaga must have been spitting feathers.
Just before the Lassad incident, Levante added high-profile players Gekas and Christian Lell, who have starred for (among others) Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich, respectively. Gekas has already repaid his new club, scoring during the elimination of Motherwell to qualify for the Europa League. Lell, meanwhile, scored in last weekend's 3-2 comeback at home to Espanyol.
The man responsible for all this clever work, which has fueled the president's game plan by making the football side powerful and giving the business side generous income, is club sport director Manolo Salvador.
Right now he's on an all-time winning streak.
But the warning to him needs to be that it will end. Eventually.
We've seen it before in Spain with Sevilla director Monchi Rodriguez and Villarreal's vice president Jose Manuel Llaneza.
Under the latter's guidance, the Yellow Submarine picked up massive, massive bargains in loans, cheap purchases or freedom of contract moves of Joan Capdevila, Juan Roman Riquelme, Robert Pires, Sonny Anderson, Diego Forlan and Beppe Rossi.
Villarreal was some team to watch for about eight years and it made real profits from sell-ons. Sevilla still more so.
During the run that saw Juande Ramos bring the Rojiblancos a couple of UEFA trophies, a Spanish Cup and the Spanish Supercup, Monchi became Midas.
Signing Julio Baptista, Dani Alves, Luis Fabiano, Christian Poulsen and Seydou Keita, among others, not only powered the greatest run of trophies in the club's history but earned Sevilla around 70 million euros in profit when sold.
However, both Llaneza and Monchi entered into a run of form whereby the deals were more and more expensive, the return on the pitch lower and the sell-on often not only negligible but at a loss, too.
How does it happen? The network of scouts beginning to fade? The market wising up? Diminished hunger for the massive hard work needed? It's hard to say.
But boy, Sevilla and Villarreal have signed some stinkers since their main talent scouts lost that Midas touch.
The transfer market is a tricksy place, and anyone who isn't happy with how their club handled that summer-long cattle ranch should bear that thought in mind.