The real hit so far this season for Real Madrid has been Isco, scoring three goals on his first three matches for the club, but everyone is looking at Cristiano Ronaldo. The new contract, the lack of goals (until now), the frustrated appearance. Maybe the first goal of the season means a new start, even if he’s still not really digging the way he’s playing under Carlo Ancelotti.
And that is all before the arrival of Gareth Bale. A sensitive player like Ronaldo, who needs to feel he’s the Alpha-Male and not just prove it constantly to everyone else, might be put off by the arrival of a more expensive player, even if everyone knows that the Welshman isn’t as good as he is.
But in the match itself, it seems like all that is forgotten. Real Madrid play with a slower pace than they did under Jose Mourinho, relying more on possession, which makes Luka Modric a lot more valuable all of a sudden. Isco is the one who provides the directness and intent from the midfield, and his ability to slip by defensive midfielders while everyone keeps concentrating on Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Angel di Maria has been Real’s greatest asset so far this season.
Ronaldo scored his first goal of the season, but continues to look uncomfortable whenever he’s not on the left wing, with enough space to create speed as he attacks the goal. In the moments when he did escape his original position and move to a wider slot, Real Madrid also looked like a more dangerous team, but a lot had to do with their defense finally settling down in the second half after Athletic Bilbao embarrassed them more than once during the first 45 minutes.
Things will change when Bale arrives. Considering how poorly Benzema has done through the first couple of weeks (Forget about his goals), in terms of movement and blending in with the team despite no longer having to worry about Gonzalo Higuain stealing his place, there’s a good chance that Bale takes the place on the left while Ronaldo moves to a centre forward position, which he did fill at times when playing for Manchester United or during his first season with Real Madrid.
Is that the best thing for the team? Ancelotti likes the improvement graph from his team. On their second home match, they looked better than they did against Betis or Granada. No Mesut Ozil, but a more responsible display from Sami Khedira and Luka Modric in the middle to help the defense, which also allowed Isco to score twice and in general provide more of an attacking threat on a constant basis.
Obviously, with a team that hasn’t changed much from last season, it’s going to take time adjusting to a new style and a new manager, who loves the ball at his team’s feet, with a slower pace and a 4-4-2 instead of the franticness and urgency of the Mourinho era. Bale seems to be the type that fits the faster style as well. It just means it’ll take even more time before we see Ronaldo a little happier (if at all), and Real Madrid looking comfortable in their new clothes.