There’s no denying for Cristiano Ronaldo moving to Juventus was a surprise to Mardrid.It’s alleged that the standing ovation he received for his epic overhead kick in the Champions League was behind a decision to move to pastures new, but the truth is it only helped in terms of making the player’s mind up.
Whatever the machinations of the deal, it had long been known by Real that Ronaldo was going to leave. No more posturing, this time it was for real. The reason?
Florentino Perez was steadfast in his refusal not to raise Cristiano’s salary to the level the Portuguese desired, despite the striker’s understanding of a gentleman’s agreement being in place that was to see his wages soar from €21 million a year to €30m.
That the president continued to avoid sitting down for talks was evidence enough that he’d had a change of heart, believing simply that, at his age, Ronaldo wasn’t worth the money.
For someone with as big an ego as Ronaldo, that was a bitter pill to swallow, although if you talk to those behind the scenes at the Santiago Bernabeu, they’ll tell you that the relationship was never great and that the pair just tolerated each other for the greater good.
The player will go on to add another chapter to his legend in Serie A, but what about the team he leaves behind? How will they cope without their talisman?
Well, for a start, there’s no longer an incessant need to get the ball to Ronaldo. Much of the reason Real were so poor in certain La Liga games in 2017/18 was that of having to utilise the option of the Portuguese rather than, on many occasions, playing what would’ve been the more sensible pass.
We’ve already seen, both in pre-season and against Getafe, the freedom that Real’s front line now have.
Karim Benzema’s movement is again that of a traditional No.9, which he is, rather than the supplementary attacker he was made to be.
His goal output last year was poor of course, but one can argue that half the time he was expected to service the needs of his partner.
The Frenchman’s excellence suggests he was deserving of being more than a ‘sidekick,’ and back in his rightful role, we’re more likely to see the striker back to somewhere approaching his best.A lot will be expected of Gareth Bale and Marco Asensio, but they too look to be free from the shackles under Julen Lopetegui.
The way the pair combined against Roma to open the scoring in the second minute of their International Champions Cup match was exquisite, and they seem to instinctively know what the other is thinking.Indeed, Lopetegui seems to be content to allow the front three to ‘work it out for themselves’ at this stage, within the confines of the team shape the new coach wishes to utilise.
We won’t know until much later in the season whether the trident are able to replicate anywhere close to Ronaldo’s output, but even if they were to lose out in goalscoring terms, the change of team dynamic absolutely represents a positive.
Let’s be clear, for the most part of the last two seasons, though Ronaldo was excellent, he was little more than a goal scorer. His interplay was often non-existent, but it was overlooked simply because he was the right man in the right place time and again. And he always showed up in the big games.
Now there are a number of players who can fill that role albeit in a slightly different manner, and an associated switching of tactics and personnel allows Lopetegui much more variation in attack.It’s also worth mentioning Vinicius Junior at this point. Just 18, the Brazilian has shown no sign of nerves in pre-season and is another option from the bench if required.
Ronaldo should certainly be afforded the respect his incredible records at Real Madrid deserve, but Los Blancos are going to be fine without him. Just fine.