Zidane needs Ronaldo to be a saviour like Messi

While the Argentine attacker popped up with a vital winner in a hard-fought victory at Malaga on Saturday, the Portuguese produced another disappointing display against Betis


Neither were at their best this weekend. Lionel Messi cut a frustrated figure at times against Malaga, while Cristiano Ronaldo could do little right away to Betis. The difference? The Argentine struck a great goal to win all three points for Barcelona, while the Portuguese - once again - was desperately disappointing.

Ronaldo has endured a difficult season at Real Madrid. He has netted 27 goals in 27 games, a tally that is on a par with previous campaigns, yet almost all of those have come against smaller sides like Espanyol, Getafe, Levante, Sporting, Malmo and Shakhtar. In the big games, he has been conspicuously absent - unable to net versus Barcelona, Atletico, Sevilla, Valencia, Villarreal nor in two meetings with Paris Saint-Germain.

The Portuguese has also started slowly under Zidane. After failing to net on the Frenchman's debut as coach against Deportivo La Coruna, the 43-year-old said: "It's not a problem. He will score in the next match." And he did, hitting a double in the 5-1 win over Sporting Gijon last weekend.

In the absence of the injured Gareth Bale, who was impressive in the last two matches before he limped off against Sporting, and with James Rodriguez still struggling for form, Madrid could have done with a performance from their star man in Seville on Sunday.

Instead, Ronaldo seemed unable to stay on his feet in the early exchanges and soon signalled to the bench for a change of boots. But it hardly helped because when he was put clean through by Karim Benzema, he produced a finish described on Spanish television as both "horrible" and "really bad" as he dragged his shot way wide with only former team-mate Antonio Adan to beat.

Later in the half, he found himself offside and produced that expression that indicates things are going against him as if it were all a conspiracy. And after the break, things went from bad to worse as another good chance was fired wide and he also kicked out at Dani Ceballos in an off-the-ball incident similar to four others he has escaped punishment for already this term.

Meanwhile, Madrid were still trailing to Alvaro Cejudo's stunning strike after seven minutes and they needed a hero. They had in one in Luka Modric, whose wonderful passing and ability to find spaces where seemingly there are none shone through like a beacon at the Benito Villamarin.

FULL STORY | Benzema rescues a point for Real

Ultimately, as Betis tired, Madrid did find a way through as James set up Benzema for the leveller. The Colombian, along with four of his team-mates, had been in an offside position, but Madrid deserved to be back in it. 

Earlier, Madrid should have had a penalty after Petros stamped on Benzema in the box, but the visitors were also lucky to escape in a similar incident right at the end involving Raphael Varane and Ceballos.

"We are on the right track," Zidane said afterwards. "We dropped two points, but I also saw positive things. You have to put the ball in the net."

Too true. And more often the not, the man who does that for Real is Cristiano. However, the Portuguese is off form at the moment, offering little outside the area and even missing the type of chances on which he usually thrives.

Asked about the future of the former Manchester United man recently, Zidane claimed that there is no way he will be leaving any time soon. "As long as I am here," he said, "Cristiano isn't going anywhere."

So having placed his firm faith in the three-time Ballon d'Or winner, the French coach will now be hoping the Portuguese can respond with the type of performances that will win tough and tricky matches for Real Madrid. Like Messi does every week for Barcelona.

At the moment, however, it's not quite happening.