City had Hart, Real Miss Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo tried to get over t he pai n of bei ng deemed unfit to play by settling down in the dug-out to watch videos of himself.
I f t he brooding, sel f- consciously doleful look of his seemed a lit t le staged, then don’t be fooled. When Rafael Benitez managed Ronaldo at the Bernabeu he found that it was the Champions League that did it for him. The sudden strains that would limit his interest in the hum-drum schedule of La Liga melted away. Benitez will tel l you that this was the stage on which he would feel he was pitting himself against Lionel Messi for what trinkets comes at the end of the season. It mig ht h ave p a id s ome o f h i s teammates to watch those videos too, i f on ly to remind t hem what t he X- f ac t or looks a nd fe el s l i ke, because this side were certainly a shadow of their best without him. “We’ll use our weapons,” Zinadene Zidane had said on Monday night but they were blunt; the team incapable of that burst of pace and f lash of enterprise — the beautiful unexpected — which puts the fear of God into Ronaldo’s opponents. The mystery of Zidane’s strateg y was that he did not hand Gareth Bale t he cent ra l st ri ki ng role Ronaldo h a d vac at e d — t he one t h at t he Welshman always implored Benitez to give him, because the Ronaldo clique would leave him isolated out on the f lank. The centre forward’s job went t o Zid a ne’s c ompat r iot Karim Benzema instead and what we saw was something proletarian. The F rench man d ropped to collect the bal l rather than intuiting the razor passes Luka Modric and Toni Kroos are so patently capable of usi ng to get a for ward a rou nd the back. Or seizing possession and d rivi ng t hrough a lone. Benzema did not re-appear after the interval and the 2 3 -year- old Spaniard Jese Rod r i g uez Rui z of fer e d not hi ng better in his place until he leapt to Lucas Vazquez’s cross with 20 minutes to run and sent it onto the bar. That was a missed oppor t u nit y because Modric did not need long to reveal his understated presence as one of the brightest jewels, pro-