By Jason Pettigrove.
It wasn’t that long ago that we were talking about Cristiano Ronaldo as taking football to a whole other level. Even Lionel Messi was being forced to bow at the feet of the Portuguese, such was his breathtaking run of form. How times change.
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His glancing header to give Real Madrid the lead in their Champions League win over Schalke last night ended a three-game drought. But Ronaldo’s form had dipped to such an extent that there have been genuine worries at the Santiago Bernabeu as to the reasons behind an almost abject failure in front of goal. His recent glaring miss against Deportivo La Coruna typified his current malaise.
Unfortunately for both Ronaldo and Real, fate would decree that Messi and Barcelona’s own form would travel on a sharp upward trajectory, leaving them just a point behind Los Blancos and knowing that the fate of La Liga is now in Barcelona’s hands.
Win as many games as Real in the run in, plus an El Clasico at the Camp Nou in March, and Barca are champions. It’s as simple as that.
So where did it all go wrong for Madrid’s finest? Certain newspapers ran extensive reports around the time of the Ballon d’Or ceremony that Ronaldo had split with his long-term girlfriend Irina Shayk.
Whilst that one event won’t have had such catastrophic effects on his form as a whole, it would surely have been a contributory factor. We seem to forget as by-standers peering into the lives of the rich and famous that they too are human.
His form was immediately affected; and the match against Cordoba only served to highlight that his mind was elsewhere. With the greatest of respect to the side from Andalusia, they are not one of La Liga’s heavyweights and the struggle which Ronaldo endured throughout was not in-keeping with his usual high-scoring rampages against the minnows of Spain’s top division. His sending off in that match was avoidable too, but entirely predictable.
That he would then return to action in the hot bed of a Madrid derby at the Vicente Calderon was a perfect stage for the player to put a rotten few weeks behind him. Yet the less said about his, and Real’s overall performance, the better.
Carlo Ancelotti’s claim that it was his worst defeat as manager of Real Madrid encompassed what every Madridista felt at the conclusion of 90 awful minutes.
To put some more perspective on Ronaldo’s own form, in the eight domestic games played since the turn of the year, he scored just four times and assisted twice. His previous eight saw him score 10 and assist five. He was also named man-of-the-match in six of those eight games.
Messi, meanwhile, has gone from being a huge 13 goals behind to just two, with many tipping the Argentine along with an in-form Neymar and Luis Suarez, to take the Catalans forward to glory at this point.
Fortunately, Real have a very winnable set of games before El Clasico and football fans around the world will hope that the status quo will have been restored well before then.
After all, there’s no finer sight than seeing Ronaldo at the top of his game terrorising Real’s eternal rivals. Remember, form is temporary but class is permanent.
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