A futile chase that has been going on for months ended three matches before the end of the season, as Cristiano Ronaldo came on a little bit too late to give Real Madrid enough of a boost and make a comeback from deficit to victory, but proved once again that without him on the pitch, despite all the money spent on making this the most impressive squad in Europe, there isn’t that much to be impressed about.
For almost 60 minutes, Espanyol were the dominating, better side on the pitch. More aggressive, more direct, simply better. They still have a fraction of a chance to make it into the Europa League, while Real Madrid had the championship to play for, but not really.
It’s always impossible to tell just how bad things are at a club the media loves to take out of proportions, but if the weekend press conference was cancelled to prevent another war of words between Jose Mourinho and his players, it means there isn’t too much love in the dressing room. Not between the benched Iker Casillas and his manager, or between Pepe and the same man as well. Ronaldo got the start on the bench for some reason, and Real Madrid looked like a disjointed group, just like their social status if everything we read in the papers is true.
Xabi Alonso didn’t start, which is always a good excuse to look bad, but this has been a going on experience. Without Cristiano Ronaldo on the pitch, the combo of Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain or any other duo of forwards Real Madrid leave to take their chances simply look easy to handle. It was Higuain who scored the equalizing goal off a Modric cross, but that was when Ronaldo already entered the pitch, drawing attention and causing fear.
For a team that has spent more money than anyone else on assembling this squad over the last four-five season, and a lot of it coming during the Jose Mourinho era which now only has a Copa Del Rey Final to play for before it’s officially over (the remaining league matches no one cares about). So much spending on the best players in the world at their positions, but the mega-club ended up being at the whim and talent of just one player. Irreplaceable, but quite damaging when he’s not on the pitch.
An end of an era? It’s hard to call three-four seasons of finishing second (except for once) an actual era. That word is used with more successful periods in the lifetime of a football club, especially Real Madrid. Under the current circumstances, it seems impossible Mourinho would actually stay with the team, but money is stronger than anything in today’s world, and even if sometimes looks like the man is actually trying to destroy the club from within, simply out of spite and to get leverage in his contract negotiations, as long as Real Madrid have Cristiano Ronaldo and he’s playing, things can’t really be that bad.