Real Madrid – Cristiano Ronaldo, Star of the One Man Team

He didn’t start or didn’t even show up on the score sheet, but without Cristiano Ronaldo coming in off the bench, Real Madrid would have drifted even further away from the top spot in the La Liga, despite all the accolades thrown at Kaka for a rare performance both in terms of length and in quality.

The league is the least important thing for Real Madrid at the moment, with a double Clasico and the Manchester United second leg waiting for them in the next few days. Yes, an away match at the Riazor against last place Deportivo is that much of a distraction, and a chance to give players like Kaka and Luka Modric a starting spot. Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Ozil watched from the bench as their team was completely outclassed, and only by their inclusion in the 57th minute, especially Ronaldo’s immediately drawing all the attention and creating the two goals for Kaka and Higuain, did Real Madrid escape Northwest Spain with a win.

Despite all the money spent on players during the Jose Mourinho era and before, Real Madrid have nothing to sell without their star player. Kaka isn’t the one to blame, hardly getting opportunities from a manager who doesn’t believe in him, but also isn’t too willing to let him go spend his final seasons with another club. The real disappointing figure in recent weeks and maybe more is Angel Di Maria, who Real need to shake off whatever it is that’s pulling him down to get through the Copa Del Rey and Champions League road bumps, as Real head to both matches needing to compensate for the conceded away goal.

The match against Depor was the first time Pepe got 90 minutes in 2013, which means he’ll probably remain in the lineup in the more crucial matches ahead – matches that will define how the Jose Mourinho era will be remembered once he leaves Real Madrid – as a complete failure with only one league title, or as a legend, at least in his own mind, who brought Real Madrid their 10th Champions League title and their first in 11 years?

Unfortunately for him, it all relies on one man. Luka Modric was chased by Real Madrid for an entire summer, eventually purchased for a ridiculous fee that doesn’t change the fact that he’s not cut out for these levels, or at least the kind of performance Real need from him. Regardless of playing as the attacking midfielder or a more retreated, deep-lying role, Modric is never as effective as the other player usually playing for him in the lineup.

Cristiano Ronaldo has been talking a lot in the media recently, parallel with the ongoing rumors of him leaving Real Madrid to Manchester United, which might be circulating in order to take his mind off the upcoming match. It feels that just like Mourinho, Ronaldo needs a big performance (or possibly three) in the next couple of weeks in order to secure his legacy with Real, and hush the voices mentioning his name along with other clubs that might want to get their hands on him.