Forget about the who is better argument, Cristiano Ronaldo or he who should not be named. Great players usually have something to prove every time they step on the pitch. That’s how they motivate themselves to reach even higher. For Cristiano Ronaldo, getting to visit Old Trafford and Manchester United in Real Madrid uniform is a perfect opportunity.
Since leaving Manchester United for the highest transfer fee ever paid, Ronaldo hasn’t won much. Titles, that is. One La Liga title, one Copa Del Rey, one Spanish Super Cup. His scoring record is something else, with 169 goals in 169 matches. Something, most would agree, wouldn’t have been achieved if he was still playing in the Premier League.
What about individual awards? He won the European Golden Shoe for the 2010-2011 season after scoring 40 league goals. He actually scored 46 the next season, but that was good enough for second place in the La Liga. Besides that? Portuguese awards, Goal.Com awards. Nothing that really rocks your world, after already touching every possible golden achievement during his younger days for Manchester United.
It’s not that Ronaldo left on bad terms. He played there for six seasons, winning three Premier League titles and the Champions League. He was the Premier League’s best player when he left in 2009. He didn’t leave anything unsettled, untouched. United have probably been weakened by his departure, because there isn’t a single player in the world who can fill his shoes, but there aren’t too many sour grapes about their former star.
But what is it in this clash, beyond the history, beyond Mourinho vs Ferguson? Cristiano Ronaldo has a chance to show something about how good he is, about how his record from the last few years when it comes to goals has nothing to do with the differences between the La Liga and the Premier League. It’s just him, just an improved him.
There are some different opinions about why Real Madrid are struggling to keep up with Barcelona this season. When you think about it, they only won three times in the Champions League, enough to make it out of their group. Some say it’s Jose Mourinho tinkering too much with his players’ heads, and losing some of their confidence in the dressing room. Some say it has to do with motivation, especially in the “smaller” matches, like the recent draw against Espanyol. In other words, complacency.
But it could be that Barcelona are simply the better side. They have been for the last few years, and last seasons was the abnormal. Just a rare case of Barca struggling in their away matches while Real Madrid finally put it together for a single season. The roles went back to normal this year.
In the midst of all that is Cristiano Ronaldo, who created quite a lot of drama and rumors earlier this season when he declared he was sad. Contract negotiations ploys, nothing more, but it had its effect on the team and upon the way he’s viewed. A great player, but a spoiled, annoying star. He even acknowledged that fact later in an interview, knowing that his behavior and seriousness on the pitch hurts him in the never-ending debate and chase for individual awards.
A return to Old Trafford is what’s left for him this season. The La Liga is long gone, all that’s left is the Champions League. Even the scoring title is running away from him way too soon. Ronaldo’s too selfish this season too often, taking 8-9-10 shots each match. Out to prove something against the wrong opponents, instead of doing what’s best for his team. But on big matches, big stages, despite the perception, he quite often brings the best of him.
For his legacy, and for the sake of this season, this return to Old Trafford, dubbed by some as the return of the former king of the team (for a few short years), needs to be a triumphant one. To show Manchester United fans who rate him as one of their greatest but no where near more popular (but less talented or accomplished) players, that he’s the best thing they ever had.