In a match like this, with Real Madrid not moving up or down no matter the result, it’s a chance for players to either prove they’re worth a starting spot, like Luka Modric and Kaka, or to simply have some fun and improve their scoring record, like Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema.
One half of the equation was fulfilled. Modric, who unfortunately is inferior to both Mesut Ozil and Xabi Alonso and just lacks the physical presence of Sami Khedira, enjoyed the atmosphere of the match vs Ajax, who were playing too soft and too open to not take advantage of. Modric set up the first two goals with brilliant passes, leading to goals by Cristiano Ronaldo and Jose Maria Callejon. It was a rare 90 minutes appearance for the Croatian, who cost so much money, but knows he’s nothing more than a sub at the moment, and probably will continue to be, especially when it comes to the bigger challenges.
Callejon gets to play in almost every match, usually coming off the bench. Plenty of times it’s to provide a more tactical and defensive solution on the right wing, playing a bit more timidly than Angel di Maria. But Callejon is a fantastic striker, or something close to that, and it’s something we see almost every time Mourinho gives him a bit more freedom to pursue goals and leave the defending and full back tracking stuff behind him. He does that better than others on the team; he just needs to show he can contribute consistently on offense; at 25, there’s still a chance he’ll grab a starting spot for Real Madrid in the future.
The Real Madrid fans were mostly happy to see two youth team players getting involved. The 20 year old, Alvaro Morata, who has already scored twice this season, and another youngster, Jose Rodriguez. The Madrid media finds something new to bash Jose Mourinho with every other day. This season, it’s been the development of youth players more often than not. It’s highly unlikely that we’ll see them feature much more this season; not a lot of meaningless matches left, but they both gave a pretty good performance and made a lot of people proud to look just a bit like Barcelona.
Mourinho would have loved to give Cristiano Ronaldo a rest, I’m sure. Still, when Ronaldo is so hungry for goals and to move his name up the scoring charts, this season and the all-time for the Champions League, he has no choice but to play him 90 minutes. What started with an easy goal set up by Benzema and Modric turned out to be a pretty forgotten display for the Portuguese.
He wasn’t involved much in the match except for the assist to Kaka, and instead of looking happy, lively and like he’s enjoying himself, had the same serious, sulky look to him. He did try and feed his teammates with good passes up to one point, but it looked like he was just waiting for it all to be over during the final 20 minutes, also getting a yellow card for a dirty foul. He said during an interview that his behavior and demeanor on the pitch is going to cost him the individual awards he wants to win; he’s doing nothing to change that.