Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure from Real Madrid has impacted the Champions League winners more than most would have expected. But what exactly did Ronaldo bring to the Santiago Bernabeu side? And does Real currently have what it takes to replicate those results?
Ronaldo ended his stint at Real Madrid as the club’s all time greatest scorer. That is certainly an astonishing fact. But let’s only take a look at his goal tally from his last season in Madrid. Ronaldo played fewer matches then he regularly had before, with the Portuguese accepting to take longer periods of rest.
Despite this, he managed 41 goals for Real Madrid. Yes, many of those were tap-ins and the team largely played up to his strengths. But does Real have the players to offer them those missing 41 goals this season?
Real is currently only the third highest scoring team in La Liga, behind Barcelona and Sevilla. Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema have performed to their usual standard. But the extra goals have to come from somewhere. Will Bale dramatically increase his goal tally?Can Asensio or Mariano become dominant forces in La Liga?
Real are unlikely to score as many goals as they did last year. They then have to rely on the squad’s overall strength and the desire of the players to prove themselves even without Ronaldo or Zidane’s involvement.
As his role at Real changed, so did Ronaldo’s ability to set up his teammates to score. While he had managed 19 assists in 2014/15 season, his tally dwindled to eight during the last campaign. But CR7 could also be depended on to help build up play, enjoying above 80% successful passing ratio in almost all of his seasons in Madrid.
Two words only: HARD WORK! pic.twitter.com/sqEB0CULbP
— Cristiano Ronaldo (@Cristiano) September 6, 2018
It’s one of the few areas in which Real can be truly confident. Modric and Kroos are excellent passers that can help initiate attacks. Isco, Asensio and Benzema’s stats are also impressive and they can be depended on to provide the crucial assist.
Ronaldo is known to to be a highly fit player. It’s one of the reasons he was able to recover quickly from his injury back in 2016, his sole serious medical problem of his career. Despite playing fewer matches last year, the Portuguese player’s influence and his ability to outrun and overpower defenders was a big factor in his side’s ability to win crucial matches in the Champions League.
There’s even an anecdote of Juventus’ medical staff remarking that Ronaldo’s physical abilities were closer to those of 20-year old, than of a player in his early 30’s.
Gareth Bale will largely be depended on to fill this role. There is no doubt that the Welshman is capable of inspired performances. However, Bale is also known to be a player that can easily pick up injuries, an issue throughout his career.
Isco is the closest Real have to a player with the same level of fitness and physicality that Ronaldo brought. And while the player has been an integral part of Spain national team, as well as of Realțs squad, he still needs to improve if he is to truly become a leader at the Santiago Bernabeu.
This is one that is harder to put into numbers. Ronaldo is arguably the most famous athlete in Europe, if not the world. He is also regarded as a sort of Champions League talisman, having won the trophy on five occasions.
Ronaldo’s mere presence gave Real Madrid a big boost in terms of popularity, something that has carried over to his new club. It’s what Los Blancos’ fans, used to players like Zidane, Beckham or Figo, expect from their side.
It’s been revealed, in fact, that ticket sales at the Santiago Bernabeu have taken a tumble this season. On the other hand, Juventus has enjoyed an increase in sales of merchandise, tickets, and a rise in popularity in social media.
Real still has a good assortment of famous, marketable faces. However, the club’s recent strategy has been to encourage the transfer of young, up and coming players. Unless one of them will have a breakout season similar to what Kylian Mbappe enjoyed last year, they will not be able to challenge Ronaldo’s popularity.
Sooner rather than later, Real will have to switch back to their familiar ways and attempt to make some big name signings. Harry Kane, Eden Hazard or Robert Lewandowski are all names that the club’s fans are hoping to see wearing the famous white shirt.
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Author: Eduard Bănulescu