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Will failure to replace Cristiano Ronaldo be catastrophic for Real Madrid?

Thursday 23rd August 2018

Liverpool recovered from the Philippe Coutinho loss to Barcelona, by reaching the Champions League final. But that was because Jurgen Klopp hit jackpot with Mohamed Salah. After nine tremendous seasons at the Santiago Bernabéu, four Champions League trophies and four Ballon d’Or wins, Cristiano Ronaldo made good his decision to leave Real Madrid.

For a club that had become synonymous with the Portuguese, it was a decision that would have telling consequences. But this is Real Madrid. It is home to the crème de la crème in world football. Ronaldo may be out of this world, but the club's success has not been down to only him. Other exceptional talents always sat alongside him in the starting line-up.

Luka Modric to Toni Kroos, captain Sergio Ramos and 2018 World Cup winner Raphael Varane can all hold their own. There is also the Welsh sensation Gareth Bale, who stole the headlines in the Champions League final, from his more illustrious teammate, by replicating Ronaldo's stunning semi-final goal against Juventus with a genius strike of his own.

And then there is Brazilian left-back Marcelo. Isco and Marco Asensio have also proven their worth in the team. Goalkeeper Keylor Navas moved to the Santiago Bernabéu as a reward for his heroics in the 2014 World Cup, and has not disappointed since. Yet, the club has brought in Belgian hot-shot Thibaut Courtois from Chelsea to add strength to the position.

Despite this quality, there is no team that will not miss a player with Cristiano Ronaldo's calibre. 450 goals for the club, in 438 matches, is no joke. No other player in world football can boast of such, except of course, the other guy...

Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have had the Ballon d'Or all to themselves in the last decade for that very reason. Nobody has been able to match them, let alone surpass their achievements for their clubs. Their records set, and broken, by one another, only to set new dizzy heights amongst themselves.

When the Portuguese captain decided to switch Madrid for Turin, it was expected that a capable replacement will be sought immediately. But to the surprise of many, the club has made no move for anyone; despite lingering rumours. Instead, the club has even taken the trouble to come out and deny such signing will be made.

It does appear the club's hierarchy is following a system that has worked in the last few years. Real Madrid have not made any marquee signings in the recent transfer windows. In January, when the team was losing ground in La Liga title race due to a lack of goals, manager Zinedine Zidane refused to bring in any reinforcements. Although it did cost them the league title and the Copa del Rey, they went on to win the biggest one of all, the Champions League.

There is no greater incentive to repeat an action than the reward for a previous one. With young Spanish players waiting to make their mark, the club is tinkering with a new model. It's an ideology different from the one the club has become famous for.

Bringing in high profile, ready-made articles, the best of the best from other rivals home and abroad has been the club's stock in trade. That's how Ronaldo ended up there from Manchester United after excelling at Old Trafford. The list includes Luis Figo, Zidane, Kaka, to name a few.

Neymar and Eden Hazard seemed destined to continue the tradition. Even the aforementioned Salah, Mauro Icardi and Harry Kane have been linked with a move in recent times. But the club has not shown any serious interest.

What cannot be denied though, is the after effect of Ronaldo's departure. The first competitive game for the thirteen-time Champions League winners without their talisman was the UEFA Super Cup against city rivals Atletico Madrid. Despite taking the lead twice in the encounter, the team capitulated to a 4-2 defeat. It was a game that was screaming for a difference maker, one they have had for so long in the Portuguese.

Another obvious Ronaldo after-effect was witnessed in the club's opening match of the new La Liga season. Madrid recorded it's lowest league attendance at home in over nine years. 48,466 fans turned out to watch the game. The late kick-off could have been a factor, but no one can deny that the absence of the star player was a huge reason.

The team did the job of getting the three points at stake on the night with a 2-0 win over Getafe. But the lack of a competent replacement upfront will definitely be felt in the long run. Barcelona and Atletico strengthened well during the transfer window and will look to continue their league dominance over Les Merengues. As for Europe, winning another trophy so soon will be out of the question.

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Emmanuel Odey

Emmanuel is a freelance journalist who lives and breathes the round leather game. He is a contributor on several platforms. You can follow him on Twitter for more.

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