With his own personal legacy the only thing he really cares about, Jose Mourinho needs Cristiano Ronaldo to be more than healthy, but at his superhuman best as Real Madrid try to erase a three goal deficit from their first leg against Borussia Dortmund, which seems like an impossible quest at first, second and third glances.
Because how good can one player be? We know Ronaldo is capable of winning matches on his own, but it’s all to a certain level. Hat tricks are possible. He has scored five of them this season, one in the Champions League. But against Dortmund? A team that might be playing the best football in Europe this season, at least when it comes to the more important competition and not their disappointing league campaign? Seems highly unlikely.
Real Madrid are at their best when Ronaldo takes a step back, and thinks about more than just his goals and his shots. He doesn’t need to stop it completely, but pulling enough focus and attention on himself and allowing Mesut Ozil, Angel di Maria and whoever plays as the “natural” striker – Karim Benzema or Gonzalo Higuain makes Real Madrid a better team.
But Real Madrid are built on counter attacks, and there isn’t a team in Europe that’s built to stop counter attacking goals quite like Dortmund. They have two of the most relentless and responsible full backs a manager can dream of, while the work rate of his stars is quite the thing to envy.
And Jose Mourinho has his legacy to think about. Three seasons with Real Madrid – only one league title, no Champions League final. No matter what spin you put on it, it’s a failure – for himself, and for a club that doesn’t take second place very lightly.
Now, he needs Cristiano Ronaldo, someone who might not be 100% coming onto the pitch at the Santiago Bernabeu before the second leg, to rescue him from a season that might be about nothing, except for the Copa Del Rey. Maybe he’ll have to make it look like a much bigger title than it actually is once again, if only to somehow spread fake pride once the season is over. Three seasons, and the team he has built is still completely reliant on the scoring ability of just one player.
Not fair to Ronaldo, and not fair to those who have spent so much money on giving Jose Mourinho the tools to try and end their Champions League drought which will be almost 11 years in the making once Dortmund knock them out.