Football

Ronaldo's sadness proves contagious for Madrid

Ronaldo was left dejected against Sevilla (©GettyImages)
Ronaldo was left dejected against Sevilla (©GettyImages).

Cristiano Ronaldo cut a lonely figure on the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan turf Saturday night.

Real Madrid had just slumped to a 1-0 defeat at Sevilla, and the La Liga champions had lost more ground to Barcelona just four games into the season.

Jose Mourinho's side now find themselves eight points off the pace, and the Real Madrid boss is not happy.

Speaking after the match Mourinho vented his frustrations at his team - how was a side that rattled Barca just two weeks ago now struggling to score a goal?

"When you don't have people who are committed, it's tough," said Mourinho.

"Congratulations to Sevilla, they deserved to win without any doubt. We got the prize we deserved considering how badly we played."

Unhappiness, it seems, is contagious at the Santiago Bernabeu. With the fallout from Cristiano Ronaldo's statement threatening to run and run, there's no doubt that the Portuguese star's "sadness" has had an undesirable impact on his teammates.

Ronaldo's statement itself has been the subject of much debate - the latest agent-inspired contract negotiation ploy or perhaps a lack of club support for the Portuguese forward's Ballon d'Or candidacy?

Whatever the motive, such a public display of discontent is bound to affect the dressing room.

With just one win from the first four league games, Real Madrid look at shadow of the team that hassled, hurried and hounded Barcelona at the Bernabeu, overturning a first-leg deficit and clasping hold of the season's first trophy.

How has this slick, well-oiled counter-attacking machine collapsed into it's current juddering form?

After the Sevilla match, Mourinho dismissed concerns over Ronaldo, insisting the poor performances have more to do with "collective spirit" than any one individual.

But perhaps the team's "collective spirit" has been punctured by the actions of their star player. Two weeks after Ronaldo questioned his Madrid future, Mourinho criticises the commitment of certain players. The two could be incidental but then the timing is unfortunate.

A draw against Valencia to start the season was followed by defeat away to city rivals Getafe. It didn't help that Messi and Barcelona picked up from where they left off, but for Madrid it was disappointing rather than disastrous.

Still, three points were needed. And against Granada they arrived relatively easily, but the notion that Madrid's season was finally up and running was deflated by the time the post-match interviews had been conducted.

Ronaldo's public admission of "sadness" seems to achieve no discernibly obvious goal - instead the motives are left unsaid and suspicion lingers, festering until it becomes fact in the minds of many.

The effect on teammates cannot be understated. Ronaldo's proclamation could plant doubts, lead to dressing room divisions and undermine the manager. Madrid fans must be thinking what on earth went wrong?

Against Barcelona everything looked so rosy for Mourinho's side. The performance suggested Real Madrid had finally found a blueprint to beat the Catalans, after three years of second-place finishes.

The team hunted in packs, denying Barca space in the same way Messi and co had done to others in the past. But such tactics rest upon the firm foundations of team spirit and togetherness.

Without that "collective spirit" a high tempo pressing game becomes sullen, plodding and ineffective. Gaps appear, which good sides exploit.

And Sevilla are a good side. A trip to Europe's hottest city is no easy task, but the manner of the defeat, more than the result itself, will trouble Mourinho.

His side toiled in the 30 degree nighttime haze, and struggled to get much fluency despite the luxury of a full-strength side. They defended sloppily and attacked lazily, Gonzalo Higuain and Angel Di Maria particular culprits in the final third.

The Madrid boss said he would have liked to haul off seven of his players at half-time. Instead, he restricted himself to two. One of those could easily have been the world's most expensive player.

Reports suggesting he could be sold are likely premature, but Ronaldo is not "unsellable" in the way that Lionel Messi probably is. For the right price, it's conceivable that Ronaldo could leave the Bernabeu.

The Portuguese forward's misery off the pitch continued once he crossed the white lines, and the Madrid forward looked thoroughly unhappy throughout. For Madrid, the negativity proved infectious.

But there's no let up. Next up is Manchester City in the Champions League - a trophy Madrid has targeted this season.

Last year the English club found their own European campaign derailed by internal turmoil - Carlos Tevez choosing a trip to Munich to challenge his manager's authority.

This time around Madrid have their own expensive problem. If they have serious ambitions of winning a first Champions League since 2002 then they will have to find a solution to the Ronaldo situation.

The ideal resolution is agreement but if allowed to drag on, the cloud gathering above the squad will only grow darker. In that case, Madrid would be better off without Ronaldo because he's no use to anyone when he's sulking.

 

Left unresolved and it won't be just Ronaldo who's unhappy, it will be the whole team.

Topics:
European News
Football
Premier League
UEFA Champions League
Cristiano Ronaldo

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