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06/23/2014 07:22 pm ET Updated Jun 23, 2014

Why Ronaldo's Racing Stripes Have Everyone Talking (PHOTO)

Kevin C. Cox via Getty Images

Portuguese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo arrived at the World Cup as soccer's well-coifed villain, but rumors are flying that behind his artfully sculpted veneer lies a rather tender heart.

Allegedly.

A zig-zag pattern shaved on the side of the star striker's head has many speculating the hairdo is a tribute to young boy whose brain surgery Ronaldo paid for himself.

Even for those who revile Ronaldo, this possible twist is too good of a story to resist. Ronaldo hasn't confirmed anything about his hairdo, but in an attempt to separate fact from fiction, Deadspin casts a skeptical eye on the story by pointing out there's just one social media post from that's been re-shared (with new facts appearing in different iterations) to serve as "proof":

Even if it turns out the questionable hairdo is not a touching tribute to a sick boy but rather a piece of fiction spun up by a Ronaldo fan or social media prankster, credit where it's due:

Ronaldo did indeed pay the medical costs for Erik Ortiz Cruz, a 10-month-old Spanish boy (Ronaldo plays professionally for Spain's Real Madrid) suffering from an epilepsy-causing congenital abnormality in the brain called cortical dysplasia.

In March Ronaldo "quietly wrote a personal check for $83,000" to cover Cruz' medical costs after he was asked to donate items for a charity auction benefitting the child, the LA Times reports. Ronaldo reportedly even offered to pay for follow-up treatments which cost roughly $8,000 a visit.

Frustrating as it may be for Ronaldo's detractors, his reputation as a preening footballer -- one so vain he opened a museum dedicated to his own achievements -- can't negate his quiet acts of charity.

After all, it makes sense that the sport's best villain is also intriguingly complex.

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