Cristiano Ronaldo: How Real Madrid Can Upgrade Around Their No. 7
Despite the vast amounts of money that has been invested in this Real Madrid squad, there is still a necessity to look at the current team as a project. As we've seen, there was going to be no instant winning of titles, and the desire for the Champions League trophy will equate another building block towards domination on both domestic and European fronts.
The victory over Barcelona was a huge step for the club last season, but it was also a great leap forward for Cristiano Ronaldo. The scorer of the game-winner announced his ability to perform equally across the "lesser" games and those against his club's biggest rivals.
The disappointments in European competition should be put aside for now.
The numbers, performances and desire and ability from Ronaldo to bounce back during a difficult spell midseason shows that he is not only the club's superstar, he is now a reliable one.
But that is already on the face of Real Madrid's successes last season; there is very little masking what Ronaldo has done and what he can continue to do for the club.
What remains to be seen is how emphatically the club can improve and upgrade around their No. 7.
Much like Ronaldo's ability, there appears to be very little the club needs to do in order to upgrade the squad. Yes, there are minor tweaks such as the right back position and the issue of depth in certain areas, but it's minimal.
However, it is evident that Real Madrid's tactics won't always take them through—despite how dominant they have been in La Liga. But whether that is down to the team's shortcomings against better opposition or simply that of running out of steam is up for debate.
It took Jose Mourinho a number of practice swings with his tactics against Barcelona before finally hitting one out of the park at the Nou Camp last season. Ironically, it was Real Madrid's decision to keep faith with their original lineup and tactics which saw them finally beat their rivals inside 90 minutes.
Their defensive display on the day was outstanding, yet it didn't transfer to their games against Bayern Munich. The second-leg semifinal Champions League tie was especially worrisome considering the ease at which Bayern sliced through the Madrid defence.
Again, the poor defence on the night could be attributed simply to fatigue, but it actually appeared that Bayern were knocking much more heavily on a door which is often tapped on regularly in domestic competition.
It goes back to the issue of Madrid not facing opponents on a regular basis that can expose their weaknesses. When it comes to the real business end of the Champions League, those weaknesses are greatly highlighted.
You'd like to think that a tactician like Jose Mourinho would want to put an end to such disappointments.
The late goal conceded against CSKA Moscow and even the two against Apoel at the Bernabeu were particularly frustrating.
But rather than splashing out unnecessarily on star defenders, it seems the gap can be plugged by simply addressing the discipline in the defence and the need to protect leads.
No reason to overhaul the defence in any big way, but rather addressing the difference in needing to win a game and knowing when a game is already won.
The forward-line at the Bernabeu is as spectacular as you'll see anywhere in Europe, but there is also that bridge between defence and attack which allows the strikers to rack up the goals in such breathtaking fashion.
There is of course a need for continuity, and Mourinho obviously has that level of thinking by rarely rotating his starting 11. However, the age of Xabi Alonso does raise the need for another option—and a reliable one—to fill the gap should the midfielder not be available.
Nuri Sahin has drawn a number of fans since joining Real Madrid despite his serious lack of playing time, but the upgrade from simply a player on the sidelines to one very much part of the league and Champions League campaign needs to be made.
Mesut Ozil and Angel Di Maria have been able to share the creative responsibility further up the field, and there is perhaps a desire from Mourinho to enhance that area of the field even further. But Sahin needs to take on a more prominent role in the squad.
He's got the ability and the technical efficiency to run a midfield in the capital; a potential loss of the former Borussia Dortmund player would be hugely disappointing.
I'm not deterred from the notion that this Madrid squad could become one of the greatest in the club's history.
But, as with any great dynasty in sports, they need to succeed on a regular basis.
Ronaldo is absolutely doing his part. He's putting in Ballon d'Or winning performances and numbers, and were it not for...well, you know.
But no great title-winning team should ever sit back on their victory of the previous year.
Barcelona will be out for revenge, Malaga will want to make their mark in La Liga and city rival Atletico Madrid will want to see how far the combination of Diego Simeone and Falcao can take them in the league.
The solitary league title for this squad is not enough, and the celebrations are long over. It will soon be time to fill the tank, upgrade the parts and send the juggernaut powering toward another league success.
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