Heading into any El Clasico there are plenty of sub-plots behind the main story. This week the two will contest for a semi-final spot in the Copa del Rey, but there is one sub-plot that has got everyone’s attention. Seems like the Real Madrid fans are beginning to grow tired of Cristiano Ronaldo, and one must assume it has a lot to do with his performances against Barcelona.
Indeed that is the case; fans of Los Blancos are understandably miffed at continually losing to their eternal rivals, even if they are dominating every other team in their path. These Clasicos are the be-all and end-all in Spain, whether the title is directly on the line or not. Imagine if Real win the league and lose each Clasico. The victory will effectively be hollow, how can the best team in a country lose two consecutive (and countless overall) matches to the runner-up and still be regarded as the best?
Jose Mourinho could and perhaps should be the scapegoat. Tactically he has been outsmarted on more than occasion, and still he has no definitive answer for the Barcelona system. All this despite raking in upwards of €150,000 per week, but Mourinho is a curious case. This is a man who should have been regarded as a failure after last season, and still could after this season, regardless of where the league title ends up. In his favour is that infamous charisma and it appears as though Mourinho has almost brainwashed the Madrid fans to like him.
These are the same Madrid fans that helped lead to the sacking of Fabio Capello despite his league title as "it was not won in the right way" after all...Regardless of my personal opinion, it must be said that Mourinho is an incredibly smart man, and the recent murmurings of discontent about Ronaldo must be something to do with the Special One. What a dangerous game to play...
Firstly, this negative publicity could spark Ronaldo into the form of his life. Determined to prove his doubters wrong he starts at the Bernabeu on Wednesday and proceeds to score at least once, just to prove a point to the masses. There would be no more jeering from the crowd, only love for the Portuguese winger, and everyone in Madrid is happy.
How unlikely is that?
Heading into the Champions League final in Rome, Ronaldo was determined to prove that he was better than Lionel Messi. So, naturally he decided none of his teammates could help him, thus embarking on numerous solo runs and attempts on goal from 30 yards. Messi, ever the team player, used his teammates to elevate his game and ended up scoring the second goal and secured the Ballon D’Or in the process. Ronaldo left dejected, and somehow managed to secure a move to Real Madrid.
Throughout the years he has improved his teamwork, but he remains an individual. The spotlight must be on Cristiano Ronaldo, he must take the free-kicks despite only scoring 5 in 107 last year, he must take the penalty, and he doesn’t need to celebrate if that puts him in the papers. Whether I have him all wrong or not, this is the impression countless others get from Ronaldo.
Putting him under this added pressure given his undoubted desire to score against Barcelona could lead to a reappearance of that selfish Ronaldo, shooting from improbable distances when he could have passed and taking on multiple defenders when there is a man in space. There is only one team that would benefit: FC Barcelona. Then what would happen? The murmurings of discontent would grow louder, the pressure would multiply and it could be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Would Ronaldo stick around? Would he continue to try and improve the team? Would he fancy a move elsewhere?
Purely hypothetical, but there are certainly plenty of other teams who would welcome him with open arms...