City had Hart, Real Miss Ron­aldo

The Economic Times - - Sports: The Great Games - Ian Her­bert

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-

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