Cristiano Ronaldo hasn’t won a league title since his final year with Manchester United in 2009. Mourinho didn’t have to wait that long (2010 with Inter) although it probably seemed like forever until finally clinching the title. Real Madrid finally broke the Barcelona hegemony, winning their first La Liga Championship since 2008.
Ronaldo didn’t have it easy, even last night, when securing the title against Bilbao. Ronaldo got a chance at a very early lead after Javi Martinez handled a ball with his hand, rewarding Real with the penalty kick. I remembered Manuel Neuer saying he picked up on Cristiano Ronaldo’s tell, regarding where he was going to kick the ball. I’m pretty sure it went through Cristiano’s mind as he approached the kick. He never kicks it straight to the middle, never so weakly, so softly.
It didn’t really matter because four minutes later Gonzalo Higuain scored a beautiful goal. Another four minutes and it was Mesut Ozil off a brilliant Ronaldo assist, taunted all match long by the Bilbao fans. It didn’t matter, and it didn’t matter that Barcelona beat Bilbao and Lionel Messi broke another record. Real Madrid were on their way to win the title. Ronaldo scored the third, his 44th league goal of the season, to cap off the impressive 3-0 win.
Ronaldo got into some feud with the fans, who were annoyed after Javi Martinez got sent off and Ronaldo hit a player in the head with the ball and claimed for handball instead, looking annoyed at the whole situation. He started pointing at his shirt, at the La Liga symbol and signaling 3 with his fingers. He later got into some argument with Javi Martinez, after it was all over. Even during the celebrations, he looked distracted.
But Ronaldo’s behavior doesn’t matter. All that Jose Mourinho has said and done over the last couple of seasons didn’t matter. This team is one of the greatest in the history of the Spanish league, with a historically good Barcelona team to compete with. Real can finish with 100 points when it’s all said and done, already scoring 115 goals in 36 matches. No European title might have dented what would have been a perfect year, maybe the greatest season ever by any club in Europe, but it’s hard to deny just how good this team was, no matter your club affiliation.
Mourinho changed, and so has his team. Tweaked the right things, also in himself, in his behavior. He had his relapses, letting the pressure get to him and his players, but everything went according to plan in the biggest match, at the Camp Nou against Barcelona. Perfect match from a tactical standpoint, and the perfect result. No more talk about not beating Barcelona in the league, no more Guardiola mind games to worry about.
It’s hard keeping this group of superstars satisfied, especially those who are in some sort of rotational limbo. But Marcelo, Conterao, Higuain, Benzema, Ozil and even Kaka. Mourinho is loved by his players, even when they’re not starting every match. Sheltering them, in a way, from the enormous pressure and expectations, creating a platform for that kind of success on the pitch.
Higuain has already begun talking about wanting regular first team football. Like 22 league goals aren’t enough for him. But that’s for the summer to solve. For now it’s the celebrations, and bringing the title back to Real Madrid, for the fans who have waited four years for something so trivial for such a club, forced to endure the Barcelona dictatorship for much too long.