Should Real Madrid regret selling Ronaldo?
Background Image: Elemaki, CC BY-SA 2.5
There's nothing as frustrating as seeing former players flourish elsewhere. Gambling that age was about to catch up to their talisman, Real Madrid sold their most influential player to Juventus last summer. The gamble didn't pay off.
Cristiano Ronaldo adapted quickly to Serie A. His acquisition made Juventus the odds-on favourites to win the Champions League. As luck would have it, that gamble didn't pay off either. Ajax sent them to the exit in the quarterfinal. Although Ronaldo struggled to score in the group stage, he came alive in the knockout rounds, rescuing the Old Lady in the Round of 16 with a hattrick after she fell behind against Atletico Madrid. He also scored in both legs against Ajax. Some may say that at 33, he could no longer do it all on his own. Those critics forget important goals for Real Madrid from other players, especially Gareth Bale.
Despite his age, Ronaldo was one of four players who managed more than 20 goals in Serie A last term. In addition, he continues to drive Portugal in Euro2020 qualifiers.
Fernando Santos' job is much easier with CR7 around. The five-time Ballon d'Or winner plundered four of his team's five goals against Lithuania during the international break. He may not have the same pace or the audacity to take on opponents in number but he's transformed his game to compensate for physical limitations. His anticipation and timing are sublime. There are few who can rival him in the opponent's third.
Over the summer, Juventus dominated the transfer market again, seeking to add the pieces that would push them to the continental summit. Matthijs de Ligt reinvigorates an ageing defensive corps. Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot are expected to do likewise in midfield. But Ronaldo will be the key to their attack again.
Yes, I should, yes, we should. I miss Cristiano, Real Madrid misses Cristiano. Instead of going to find his ‘replacement' we went and disrespected him by giving the 7 to Mariano. Someone in our club believed in Bale, and let Ronaldo go. https://t.co/1J33xf21jb
It remains to be seen whether new manager Maurizio Sarri can get the sauce just right. On the other hand, Zinedine Zidane would surely like to have the key ingredient in the Italian's recipe. Without Ronaldo, Real Madrid struggled last season, going out to Ajax in much more embarrassing fashion and a round before Juventus. Los Blancos were just as busy as the Bianconeri in the market but it's been a slow start to the campaign.
Money invested in Eden Hazard and Luka Jovic is yet to pay off. The Merengues were fifth coming into this weekend's La Liga action. They caught a break when Real Sociedad halted Atletico Madrid's perfect start with a 2-0 victory yesterday and took advantage by jumping out to a 3-0 first-half lead at the Bernabeu and hanging on when Levante pegged two back after the interval. The new arrivals were conspicuously absent, however. It was Zizou's most trusted lieutenant, Karim Benzema, who powered the victory with a brace.
The result lifted Real into second place on eight points pending the outcome when Sevilla visit Alaves today. While that is progress, there is no rest for the wicked. Atleti still lead and Barcelona are coming up hard from the rear after having their way with Valencia, ironically despite Lionel Messi's continued absence due to a calf injury. The difference is that Ernesto Valverde can expect his 600-goal man to return to the lineup in the near future. Zidane must contend in Spain and Europe without a guaranteed 40 goals from one source.
At some point, Real Madrid was going to have to move on from life with Cristiano Ronaldo and it was always going to be a difficult proposition transitioning from a spearheaded attack to one more diverse. The club chose to be proactive and some say the sooner, the better. On the other hand, there are others who will tell you better late than never.