Spanish Inquisition: No Cristiano Ronaldo? Big Problems For Real Madrid

As a Ronaldo-less Madrid stammered to their first defeat of the season, Goal.com’s KS Leong wonders if the Portuguese’s absence is a bigger problem than originally thought.

“No Cristiano Ronaldo? No Problem.” That was the rallying cry from the Real Madrid camp after news came out that ‘CR9’ would miss Sunday night’s high-octane firecracker at Sevilla.

Of course, no one from the Santiago Bernabeu uttered those exact words, but that is always the general feeling when a superstar player is sidelined for a team, especially on the eve of a blockbuster clash. And that was the sensation the Casa Blanca were emanating, as if trying to motivate the rest of the squad by telling them this is their one chance to step up to the fore and steal the spotlight.

But no one did, and Ronaldo was indeed sorely missed. If anything, his absence displayed the same kind of problems Madrid encountered for most of last season: they didn’t have a single player who could draw out and defenders and create space for the rest of the attack.

Kaka tried his hardest at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, but every time he got past one opponent, he would stumble over at the second challenge. And the frustration on his face was there for all to see as the match progressed, annoyed at himself for failing to produce the kind of magic he is expected to.

Ronaldo also has that ability to make a rival’s entire rearguard back away when he gallops forward with the ball. Had he been on the pitch, Jesus Navas might have had to stay back and help out in defence. In turn, he may not have been afforded so many chances to bombard forward himself.

Also missing from the Madrid side last night was the blistering pace on their counterattacks. On three or four occasions, the capital giants broke away, but instead of taking route one and spreading the ball 30 yards forward out to the wings for Ronaldo, the midfielders swapped aimless passes with each other on the halfway line. It was as if no one had that Cristiano-esque swagger to be held responsible for when the move horribly collapsed.  

But take nothing away from Sevilla for their hard work to secure a deserved 2-1 win. Madrid didn’t lose solely because Ronaldo was missing - they lost because Manolo Jimenez’s men had the Whites all figured out from the get go.


Madrid's two other Galacticos, Xabi & Kaka, fail to inspire

The Andalucians are about as red hot as Barcelona at the moment and they are one of the only teams in La Liga capable of challenging the perennial big two in every department. And that’s what they demonstrated. They were solid at the back, they were composed in midfield, their front line wreaked havoc and in Jesus Navas and Diego Perotti, they simply tore Los Merengues apart down the flanks.

Had it not been for the IFFHS Goalkeeper of the Year, Iker Casillas, who pulled off two superhuman reflex saves either side of the break – the second of which left team-mate Mahamadou Diarra literally gob smacked – the scoreline could have been much uglier.

Against any other opposition, any one of Ronaldo’s deputies on the night would have done enough to step in and help the team grind out a win. But Sevilla are not ‘any other opposition’.

The defeat raises a fascinating question for coach Manuel Pellegrini to ponder: how does he tailor a strategy to keep the Madrid side winning without the former Red Devil? The Portuguese wizard wants to play every minute of every game of every competition, whether he has a broken nail or two broken legs. But it’s clear that neither his coach nor the club will allow it for fear of losing €94 million over an extended period of time.

White House president Florentino Perez may be all-powerful when it comes to money, but unless he owns a human cloning machine to make duplicates of Ronaldo, then Pellegrini better engineer a game plan for those rare occasions when the most expensive player in the world is not available for selection.   

KS Leong, Goal.com