At some point, no more explanations are left. Real Madrid fans, players, media. This was supposed to be their Clasico. The lead in the table, with most even agreeing that they’re playing better football than Barcelona this season. Despite the magical start, what came after was disappointment. Cristiano Ronaldo couldn’t score and was outclassed by Lionel Messi once gain. The blame seems to falling on his head.
One interesting stat that I found this morning was Real Madrid’s scoring this season. Real Madrid have scored 68 goals this season in the La Liga and the Champions League, not including the Barcelona matches. They have won 18 of their 20 matches not involving their biggest rivals. When it comes to Barcelona? Including the Super Cup, it’s one draw from three matches. It’s a 5-8 scoreline, and this Saturday at the Santiago Bernabeu, it was a complete disaster.
It didn’t start that way, but after the initial shock, Barcelona adjusted, took over, and were clearly the better side, as usual. You couldn’t hear it on the TV, but reports of the Madrid fans booing Cristiano Ronaldo are spreading more and more. I don’t think there were too many of them doing it, but the snowball of blaming Cristiano Ronaldo and his misses for the loss is growing larger by the minute.
And why Ronaldo? Because once again, he failed to score against Barcelona. He tends to score with ease against everyone, with 17 league goals this season. He did score in the Super Cup against Barca, he did win the Spanish Cup last season with his goal being the winner. He even scored a penalty kick against Barcelona in the 1-1 draw last season. It doesn’t matter. He hasn’t beaten Barcelona in his five league Clasicos, and has only one, PK, goal against them in those.
So Marca for example decided to give Ronaldo a 1.8 rating for his match. He missed, he didn’t score four own goals. Still, cool head weren’t doing the grading after the match I suppose. After the Fabregas goal, making it 3-1, it seemed that Real Madrid gave up. His faces of frustration, and the overall feeling of giving up, with the usual spotlight that is turned to him shining brighter than usual, make him an easy target.
I read somewhere a comparison referring to Michael Jordan and Julius Erving, Dr. J. Michael Jordan was the most famous athlete, maybe person in the world, during the 1990’s. He had more fans than Erving. But he wasn’t loved like Erving was. There’s a difference. It doesn’t perfectly parallel to the Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo case, and soccer fans are very different from American NBA fans, but I think you get my point. It’s very easy to find Ronaldo as the target for your blames.
But it can’t be about him, about his inability to produce in the biggest matches. It might hurt his case in all those Messi vs Ronaldo debates, but that’s not the reason Real Madrid haven’t beaten Barcelona in their last 7 league clashes. Barcelona, despite their problems, are a better team. And everything worked on Saturday. Maybe they just rose to the occasion, stalling the decline they’re facing this year. It doesn’t matter. Look to the Real Madrid midfield, and Jose Mourinho, for answers.
Nuri Sahin. Had a fantastic season for Dortmund in 2010-2011. Lass Diarra, time and time again, proves he isn’t up for these kind of matches. Xabi Alonso needs a partner who knows what to do with the ball. Diarra isn’t the answer, for all his defensive qualities. Lost with the playmakers. Mesut Ozil was nowhere to be found, and throwing in Kaka, when it’s pretty clear Mourinho doesn’t have faith in him, didn’t do anything. Sami Khedira isn’t much better off. Putting in Higuain for Di Maria offered no change.
Real Madrid and their head coach were stunned. By Xavi’s goal, by Ronaldo missing the header just before Fabregas put the final nail in the coffin. By Lionel Messi, with another splending performance. By Cesc Fabregas who just filled holes. When Xavi moved, he was there for him. When Iniesta moved, he was there for him. You get my point. By Alexis Sanchez, who played something as similar to a striker you get from this Barcelona team.
Pepe continues to prove that some players actually can continue decline in game intelligence despite gaining more and more experience. His reliance on his athleticism and brute force just creates too many holes. Marcelo is another player that all of his pluses seem to disappear when it matters the most, and we’re left with a left back that doesn’t know the first thing about defending. Mourinho hasn’t decided what to do with Fabio Coentrao either.
Cristiano Ronaldo has his own soul searching to do. Why does it always happen to him when he sees Pique and Puyol? Why did Valdes stop his shots? Why did his free kick not once find their way beyond the wall? But the man is perfectionist, like his head coach, who even himself hinted at Ronaldo being the one to blame after the match. He’ll bounce back. The problem is with the rest of the team, that runs all over the La Liga, but just becomes clueless when facing the Catalan machine.
Putting aside the doom prophecies and negativity, Iker Casillas went out and defended Ronaldo. He scored for them before, he’ll score again. Bad days make great players better. The goals will come. And Real still have an advantage over Barcelona, travelling to Japan, in the league. Level on points (37), but Real have a game less. Not all is lost, far from it.