Ron­aldo takes aim at team­mates

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

MADRID — Cris­tiano Ron­aldo ac­cepted the in­vi­ta­tion to talk, let the mi­cro­phones crowd around him and spoke very de­lib­er­ately. There were “facts”, he stressed, “that needed to be said”. Names were named, in­clud­ing his own. Ron­aldo re­ferred to him­self in the third per­son once he turned hos­tile to­wards a me­dia he sup­posed were un­der­valu­ing him.

He ad­dressed re­porters for just over six min­utes on his way out of Real Madrid’s Bern­abéu sta­dium af­ter Satur­day’s 1-0 de­feat by Atlético Madrid, a set­back, he ac­knowl­edged, that means the La Liga ti­tle is “prac­ti­cally lost,” with se­cond-placed Atlético four points ahead of Real, and Barcelona an even wider stride in front of Atlético.

His half-dozen min­utes were preg­nant with frus­tra­tion, and ex­plicit doubts about the ca­pac­ity of sev­eral of his col­leagues to per­form at the stan­dard re­quired to chase ma­jor prizes.

“If ev­ery­body was at my level, we’d be top,” said Ron­aldo, check­ing him­self with a quiet “per­haps” at the end of that star­tling dec­la­ra­tion.

“Whoah!” ex­claimed one of his ques­tion­ers. Ron­aldo was in deep now, his words ripe for tak­ing as ev­i­dence of a preen­ing ego­ma­nia his com­pa­tri­ots in the Por­tu­gal na­tional squad have wit­nessed reg­u­larly over a decade but which, in his six years at Real, has sel­dom been ar­tic­u­lated so brazenly.

He had al­ready listed team-mates, com­par­ing them un­favourably with the quar­tet of col­leagues who, he said, he prefers to see or­bit­ing around Real’s bright­est star. “I’m not go­ing to lie,” Ron­aldo said, “I like Karim (Ben­zema), and when Karim’s not there, it’s harder.

When (Gareth) Bale, Marcelo and Pepe are not there, it’s harder.” The lat­ter three missed the derby with fit­ness prob­lems and Ben­zema with­drew in­jured at half­time, with the game still goal­less.

A trio of play­ers re­cently el­e­vated from the youth team had been used by Real’s novice head coach Zine­dine Zi­dane as sub­sti­tutes. Ron­aldo name-checked two — Jesé and Lu­cas Vázquez — and Ma­teo Ko­vacic, the 22-year-old signed from In­ter Mi­lan for al­most €30 mil­lion in the sum­mer. “I don’t mean Jesé or Lu­cas or Ko­vacic are not good play­ers, they’re very good, but... well.”

When it was put to him that Real have an ex­pen­sive and deep enough squad to man­age three or four ab­sences, Ron­aldo an­swered: “That’s your point of view. I have my point of view. I re­peat: when the team plays with­out its best play­ers, it is hard to win a long com­pe­ti­tion.”

Ron­aldo, who tends to be fru­gal with his pub­lic ut­ter­ances when there is no com­mer­cial im­pe­tus, has been un­usu­ally gar­ru­lous lately. He per­formed me­dia du­ties for Real ahead of the first leg of the Cham­pi­ons League tie at Roma a fort­night ago. That was no study in self-dep­re­ca­tion, ei­ther. He marched out of the press con­fer­ence af­ter an­swer­ing a ques­tion — Why had he not scored an away goal for two and half months? — with a ques­tion: “Show me a player who has scored more away goals than me since I have been in Spain?” He had a point: there are none. Ron­aldo had fur­ther points to make about Ron­aldo on Satur­day. “The press say, ‘Cris is hav­ing a bad sea­son’. It an­noys me. Look at the sta­tis­tics. The sta­tis­tics never lie. I can’t see any­body close to me in the Cham­pi­ons League.”

In that com­pe­ti­tion where, ac­cord­ing to Ron­aldo, Real now feel “more en­thu­si­asm” given their do­mes­tic short­falls, his sta­tis­tics are th­ese: his goal in the 2-0 win at Roma was his 12th in seven games. But here is a stat within those stats: half those goals were scored across two maul­ings of Malmo, whom Real put 10 past with­out re­ply.

CR7 has had a tricky 2016. The Bal­lon d’or is no longer his, as of last month; last week­end, he had a penalty saved at Málaga, cost­ing Real league points.

He trails Barcelona’s Luis Suárez in the chase to be La Liga’s top marks­man. Un­usu­ally for him, he has fewer goals than league ap­pear­ances.

He turned 31 three weeks ago, a ca­reer thresh­old where the num­ber of fu­ture con­tracts start to look fi­nite.

Euro 2016 in France this sum­mer may mark the last ma­jor in­ter­na­tional tour­na­ment in which he plays at the peak of his phys­i­cal pow­ers; France, and Paris StGer­main, looks like the like­li­est place he could ex­tend his ca­reer on the terms he is used to at an elite club, if he were to leave Real in the next 18 months.

His com­ments af­ter the loss to an ef­fi­cient Atlético were res­onat­ing even as he revved up his en­gine to go home. He had barely driven out of the gates of the Bern­abéu past a thicket of peeved madridis­tas, some of them jeer­ing play­ers as ‘ mer­ce­nar­ies’, when var­i­ous Span­ish me­dia were con­tacted on his be­half to back­track, to be put straight on what he re­ally meant by his ear­lier state­ments: sim­ply that in­juries had af­fected the team, that no crit­i­cism of any col­league had been in­tended.

The likes of Lu­cas and Jesé will have to weather be­ing told they are not as so­phis­ti­cated at cre­at­ing the kind of space Marcelo, Ben­zema or Bale open up for Ron­aldo to thrive in.

But Zi­dane, whose sta­tus as a pop­u­lar, if in­ex­pe­ri­enced, head coach suf­fered with his first home de­feat, would be en­ti­tled to won­der if his lead­ing player is now telling him who to pick.

Pepe, cited by Ron­aldo as one of the wor­thy, is far from guar­an­teed a start, once fit, given his cen­tral de­fen­sive po­si­tion is oc­cu­pied by Raphaël Varane, whom Zi­dane helped bring to Real, and cap­tain Ser­gio Ramos.

Like­wise, club pres­i­dent Florentino Pérez will be for­given, af­ter a day when sec­tions of the crowd chanted for him to re­sign, for won­der­ing if Ron­aldo, his best­paid player, is sneer­ing at his re­cruit­ment.

James Rodríguez, who played in Bale’s po­si­tion against Atlético, cost €80 mil­lion; Danilo, deputis­ing at full-back for Marcelo, cost over €30 mil­lion.

And when Pérez hears the most pow­er­ful man in the dress­ing-room sug­gest­ing only a side with 11 Ron­al­dos would come top of a league Real have won once in eight years, it must sound chas­ten­ing, as well as im­mod­est.

Cris­tiano ron­aldo.

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