Post-Ronaldo Real Madrid: Can they compete?
The 2018/19 season commenced less than a month ago and the departure of Real Madrid’s greatest ever goalscorer made the headlines. Not many expected the player to leave the club that he claims to love, but who could blame him if he was not feeling wanted anymore. The Portuguese star averaged at least 40 goals per season since 2009 when he moved to the club from Manchester United and has been the focal point of the club’s successes in the past decade. He picked up 5 Ballon D’Or (World’s Best Soccer Player) Awards in his career to date which is the same as fellow GOAT, Lionel Messi of Barcelona. Tinotenda Magiya writes how Real Madrid plans to cope with the loss of their greatest asset.
Gareth Bale seems to be the answer to many questions. The Welsh forward was brought to Madrid in a world record transfer from Tottenham Hotspur back in 2013. It is only when he arrived that the club managed to win the UEFA Champions League after 9 failed attempts. Bale was brought with the expectation to rival Ronaldo for the best player within the camp and ensure that healthy competition translated to trophies. It is fair to say that the Galactico signing has not quite lived up to those expectations as he suffered many injuries throughout his time in Spain. Instead of scoring those huge number of goals, Bale was turned into a provider for the Portuguese No.7 because the team was built around him. His goal scoring contribution was a bit limited which saw his pedigree fall from being one of the best players in the world to being an impact substitute under Zinedine Zidane’s tenure. Ronaldo’s departure means that the player is granted the freedom he always desired, and he has since scored 3 goals and provided 1 assist in just 3 appearances so far this term. If the Spanish giants put their faith in the Welsh wizard, they will surely get the best out of the player who has that fear factor that can only be found in the best attackers in world football.
Benzema is another player whose style of play suffered for the good of Ronaldo. The striker also focused more on assisting Ronaldo than doing his primary job which is to put the ball into the net. Opta Stats reported in April that he assisted Ronaldo’s 23 goals in La Liga, more than any other player. No wonder Ronaldo did not object to Higuain’s departure because Benzema was unselfish and was always ready to feed him the ball in dangerous positions and allow him to shine. Now that Ronaldo is gone, the French striker is also looking like a more effective player ready to compete for the Golden Boot (highest goal scorer) award. He looks potent in front of goal and does not think twice when the ball falls at his feet. He has scored 4 goals already in La Liga and another in the UEFA Super Cup to make it 5 goals in 4 appearances. Real Madrid will need these goals if they are to compete against Barcelona and Atletico Madrid for the domestic titles as well as to defend their European crown. There is more to come from the 30-year-old, and his style of play has been restored to default settings.
Real Madrid head coach, Lopetegui, is certain that his youthful talent will play an integral part in their quest for success during his tenure. He has since deposed the young Vinicius Jnr on the left of an attacking three for the La Liga opener before playing Marco Asensio and Isco Alarcon in the other two matches. The club has maintained a perfect record since the start of the competition and does not look like they miss Ronaldo. It is not the first time that the young players have delivered for Real Madrid. Even during Zidane’s time, Asensio shined against Barcelona in 2017 when they beat the Catalonians by 2 goals to nothing in the Spanish Super Cup. Gerard Pique of Barcelona was quoted as having said, “I feel inferior to Real Madrid for the first time,” and Ronaldo was not on the pitch on this night. There were signs that the club could live without the aging striker and the new coach has gone with that strategy. Dani Ceballos has also been used in midfield in place of the UEFA Best Player of the Year, Luka Modric who is turning 33 years in a few days. On other parts of the pitch, the club also acquired Mariano Diaz to provide competition for Benzema up front and Odriozola to compete with Dani Carvajal at right back. The club’s latest recruitment strategy could prove to be a masterstroke if they go on to win the La Liga trophy this season.
Besides, Courtois signature fits into the plan of making a competitive team post the Ronaldo era at Real Madrid. The club finished third behind Atletico Madrid and Barcelona conceding 44 goals in the process. This was twice as many goals that Atletico conceded and the club sought the expertise of the Belgian goalkeeper to prevent conceding so many goals. If the above-mentioned players maintain their current form and Courtois shields the goal-line like he knows how to, Real Madrid will definitely be a force to reckon this season and beyond.
In essence, Real Madrid does not look doomed now that they have lost a player who is arguably the greatest of all time. The status of the club does not allow it. Real Madrid has existed since 1902 and is the most decorated club in European soccer with 13 UEFA Champions League trophies. They managed to achieve this over many generations even when they lost players like Di Stefano, the Brazilian Ronaldo, Raul, Casillas, and now Cristiano Ronaldo. They seem to always find a way to exist and dominate. They have, and always will. Be sure to hold your heart in your hands when your team is matched against Real Madrid because they will have enough to deal with anyone they face.