Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Ronaldo Conundrum

At the outset of this post, I’d like to warn you that this post may appear to be the work of a hyper reactive moron, or worse a schizophrenic paranoid. But I wrote it nevertheless because if the quarry that I discuss in this post comes to pass, I have the right of saying “I told you so”. If not; well I’ve been called worse things and reading the work of a moron, what does that make you?

I was waiting with bated breath for Real Madrid’s La Liga opener to kick off at the Ono Estadi. However, it turned out to be a distinct and a “snoozey” if I may add, anti-climax after all the initial euphoria of seeing Mourinho’s men take the pitch for a supposed cracking encounter. In the end, there was precious little of note to pen down. The match finished at 0-0 with both sides clamoring for the referee’s head, just as it is always done in the Spanish La Liga run by those brain farts that seem to totally overlook the poor officiating present in the league. Anyway, coming back to the match, since there was absolutely no action to concentrate on and to keep myself awake, I started focusing on the other things like how many seats were empty in each row of the stadium and how many times Ronaldo acted like a Diva. The good thing was Ronaldo’s count was significantly lower than the number of empty seats but it left me with a bitter taste in my mouth; 33 goals from 35 starts in his first season and now billed to uphold the glowing tradition of the number 7 jersey and he was busy taking dandy swipes at the legs of yet another Mallorcan defender who had fouled him or potshots at the goal from impossible angles and distances, some of them so much that even Ronaldo wouldn’t have been able to score.

The worse thing was that this wasn’t the first time I saw Ronaldo at his worst best. It was the same Ronaldo I had seen in only the previous match; the Trofeo Santiago Bernabeu match against C.A. Peñarol. Start of a new season and having had a glorious debut season, I had expected Ronaldo to pick up right where he had left off. But, he has hardly figured in the pre-season and when he finally did, it was against Peñarol, where he looked like a shadow of himself, and a bitter shadow at that. And at the close of Jornada 1, we have been hit with the news that Cristiano Ronaldo has been injured (no doubt by all those dirty tackles by the Mallorca players which never really got the punishment they deserved, especially the first one) and will be out for 3 weeks, with the erstwhile Eduardo Inda predicting that it could be seven. It could just be that Ronaldo put on a show of his frustrated best in the last 2 games because he wasn’t really match fit and in the second case because he was already nursing an injury.Still that doesn’t change the fact that Ronaldo stuck out like a sore thumb in the last 2 games he has played. In both games, he started brilliantly but faded away into ignominy as the game wore on. Ronaldo is a confidence player; as in he needs everyone around him to have confidence in him so that he performs. He also measures his performances by the goals he scores and when he doesn’t get them, he becomes like a cat deprived of milk, irritable.

Ever since Ronaldo hit the big banner of “The Best Player”, the teams he has played in have all revolved around him. He is no playmaker; he’s more of a one man show, but the best one man show there is. It is this double edged sword that Ronaldo always carries around with him. To have your team revolve around Ronaldo can always prove to be counterproductive. If he doesn’t perform, the entire game plan goes for a toss. Having a central player in a team of 11, which most top coaches increasingly use these days (Ferguson, Guardiola & Ancelotti to name a few). But Mourinho doesn’t. It is this fact that makes Ronaldo seem more and more like a conundrum for Mourinho. Mourinho’s teams are rigidly tactical, disciplined and finely organized. Each person has his own role in Mourinho’s team and the team collectively plays, wins or loses. When you throw a Ronaldo into the mix, who essentially is a player that needs the entire pitch to roam around and is used to other players adjusting their roles to accommodate his, you are automatically driving head-on into a big contradiction. This was evident in the last two games that Ronaldo played in. In the finely oiled Mourinho machinery, a maverick like Ronaldo stood out because of his inability. He switched flanks nevertheless, the output of which was that Canales immediately started looking out of ideas and Di Maria was completely wasted on the right side. Too many times you had Ronaldo wanting to pass the ball but there was no one to take his pass, the only exception being Higuain who seemed to be the only one able to read Ronaldo’s various transitions.

Most people that I talk to are quite worried about Ronaldo’s injury, but I personally feel that we’re going to play much better without Ronaldo this time round because Mourinho’s game plan doesn’t revolve around a single player. The big issue is when Ronaldo comes back, will Mourinho make those necessary changes so that Ronaldo is the focal point? Ronaldo is no longer a player who can be taught to unlearn that which made him the world’s best player over the last 6 seasons. Mourinho will never want to take the risk of playing into an opposite team’s hands by making his game plan apparent. I hope that The Special One has a solution to this problem else we might have to hear the over used term “embarrassment of riches” once more. Or it could just be a blip attributed to the fact that we have so many new players playing together (again!), but that’s not an excuse I’ll like to settle on.


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