I have been a Real Madrid fan for a long time now, long enough to remember a time before Cristiano Ronaldo. I remember him being the ‘new’ Ronaldo, and wondering if he’d ever match up to the ‘real’ Ronaldo (O Fenômeno). It turns out, he has.
He’s far outpaced the great Brazilian, and he’s got a fair case alongside Alfredo Di Stefano as being the greatest player in the history of the greatest club in the world. He’s an absolutely wonderful footballer, the best player in the world of his era – no exceptions.
But I am relieved he’s gone.
No panic from the fan-base
I know, it sounds like a terrible thing to say, disrespectful to what he brought to the club, naïve to his value, but hear me out. Think about why the lead up to this sale was so relatively docile. There was no panic from the fan-base this time around, in fact, many simply laughed at the notion that Juventus would pony up the salary and transfer fee it would require.
There are two reasons for this. One, it was assumed that if Ronaldo ever left it would be to go back to Manchester United, so a link to Juve seemed less reasonable. Two, we’ve been through this before. My word have we been through this before. It got to the point where it felt like every single summer we had to deal with the latest thing Ronaldo was upset about and why he wanted to leave. The fans didn’t coddle him enough, the club didn’t do enough to help him with his taxes, he wanted YET ANOTHER pay raise because his massive ego couldn’t handle someone making more money than him.
It has been exhausting. No player, coach, or executive is bigger than Real Madrid. It’s the biggest club in the world. Watching this club bend over backwards to placate an egomaniac has been demeaning to the crest.
Ronaldo is 33
The Juventus buy saved Real Madrid from a contract that would have kept him at the club until age 36 at superstar wages. La Liga is the toughest league in the world and this club still wants to win the Champion’s League every single year. It was a bad situation for the club.
As things stand now, Lopetegui can balance his front line around a dominant midfield – the way we saw his Spain team play – instead of funneling everything to one man for seven shots per 90 minutes (an insane figure). One could argue that when it’s Ronaldo shooting seven times per 90 minutes it’s fine, but to take that line would ignore the slump he had at the beginning of the 2017-2018 season, that subsequently crippled Real Madrid’s La Liga campaign.
Without Ronaldo, Real Madrid can get younger, more balanced, and less reliant on one player. The club can belong to the fans again, not to the whims of one star player. Some fans who jumped on the Real Madrid bandwagon when he arrived will put on their Old Lady stripes, and good riddance, it’s time for Real Madrid to express itself as what it truly is – the best run major club on earth – not simply the supporting cast to one man.
Please do not misunderstand me. Cristiano Ronaldo is an absolute legend. The club well may never see a player as good as him ever again, and that’s staggering. I think he has certainly earned that sixth Ballon D’or, and I would be glad to see him lift it.
Real Madrid plays Juventus in pre-season on August 4th, and I’ll be there. On the off-chance Ronaldo plays (I doubt he will), I’ll cheer him when he is announced. He’s earned that and more. But it’s time. In some ways, Ronaldo’s obsessive and self-centered personality is what made him the greatest forward in the world, but it’s also why his exit has happened when and how it did.
He was never going to be a Francesco Totti figure for Real Madrid. He’s not wired that way. He was never going to slowly fade away as the polite club legend, and that’s okay. He’ll be the man everywhere he ever plays, and I respect the drive. But at some point the world’s greatest club goes beyond any one player, and for Cristiano Ronaldo, his time finally came.