5 Defenders Who Have Shackled Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo

Rob TrainFeatured ColumnistDecember 7, 2012

5 Defenders Who Have Shackled Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo

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    It isn't easy to stop Cristiano Ronaldo. The Real Madrid and Portuguese international winger is one of the fastest players in the game, able to cover the length of the pitch in a flash to finish off a counter-attacking move.

    In the early stages of his career he was guilty of over-elaboration—two step-overs are just as effective as 20. But Ronaldo has tamed his exuberant streak and honed an element of his overall game that used to exasperate teammates as often as it confused opponents.

    Today, the full complement of Ronaldo's tricks, flicks and feints makes him one of the most feared attackers in the world.

    However, he does occasionally find himself banging his head against a defensive wall.

    And not all of them employ the tactics of David Navarro to stop the flying Portuguese winger in his tracks.

    (Even after that clash, Ronaldo managed to bag a goal.)

    Here are five recent games where Real's star player has been brought back down to Earth.  

Eric Abidal: Barcelona 5, Real 0 (November 2010)

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    It was a night to forget for Madridismo as a whole. Real traveled to Camp Nou for the first El Clasico of the 2010-11 season encounter between Jose Mourinho's Real and Pep Guardiola's Barcelona. The Catalan coach had won the previous four.

    Mourinho fielded a defensive line-up with Lassana Diarra in midfield to provide a shield between the first and second line of midfield. It was an experiment that lasted 45 minutes.

    In a bid to unleash Ronaldo and counter the attacking of Dani Alves, Mourinho deployed Angel di Maria on the left and the Portuguese on the right. If he thought Ronaldo could exploit the relative lack of pace of Eric Abidal, he was to be disappointed. During the match, Ronaldo was drawn to his usual left side like a moth to the light, as the Frenchman thwarted his every move.

    Abidal's flawless performance left Ronaldo seething to the extent that he shoved Guardiola when the Barcelona coach, quite deliberately, provoked the winger.

    That hardly helped Ronaldo's game face, and he and Real were led to disaster by the freshly appointed Mourinho, who swallowed the worst defeat of his entire managerial career (0-5).

Sergio Ballesteros: Levante 1, Real Madrid 0 (September 2011)

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    Sergio Ramos told Spanish paper AS after the last meeting between Real and Levante, who share little love, that Sergio Ballesteros should take up boxing if he doesn't like football (h/t Goal.com).

    Much like England's former cricket captain Andrew Flintoff, Ballesteros probably could.

    At 1.88 meters tall, 93 kilos on a good day and 36 years old when Real traveled to the Ciutat de Valencia stadium last season, Ballesteros was a colossus at the back as Arouna Kone nicked a famous win at the other end.

    Ballesteros' athleticism has been the subject of much mirth among his opponents, but it was the Levante captain laughing hardest after one particularly energized run.

    In the end, the fractious contest produced one red and 13 yellow cards.

    And little of note from Ronaldo.

Real Madrid Teammates: Spain vs. Portugal, Euro 2012

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    In the eagerly awaited semifinal clash between the Iberian not-so-friendly neighbors at Euro 2012, Ronaldo found his path to glory blocked by familiar faces.

    Every time the Portuguese trickster got the ball he was hounded off it by Alvaro Arbeloa and Sergio Ramos, who clung to their teammate like a 30-year-old Spaniard to his mother's apron strings.

    A tedious encounter unfolded in which just one shot warmed a keeper's hands in 90 minutes. Extra time wasn't much better.

    In the penalty shootout, the sharpest shot on the Portuguese national team didn't even fancy a pop, having been subdued by Arbeloa and Ramos.

    Or, like anybody who else who had wasted the previous 120 minutes, he just wanted it all to be over.

Joao Pereira: Real Madrid 1, Valencia 1 (August 2012)

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    Ronaldo's Portuguese international teammate Joao Pereira arrived at Valencia from Ronaldo's alma mater, Sporting, in the 2012 summer transfer window.

    A debut against Real Madrid in the Bernabeu is not everybody's idea of an easy introduction into La Liga. But Pereira, 28, tamed his national captain with relative ease, although it must be said that Diego Alves was also instrumental in frustrating the Real attack between the sticks.

    Still, it was hardly the start Real would have liked to get off to, yet exactly the one that Pereira required.

    Not that did it did Mauricio Pellegrino much good, as the fickle Mestalla crowd warmed his heels to the unemployment line.

    Pereira, on the evidence of his debut, should fare better at La Liga's most combustible club.  

Mats Hummels: Borussia Dortmund vs. Real Madrid, 2012-13 Champions League

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    While Mats Hummels was not alone in driving the very impressive Borussia Dortmund to the top of Group D, it was often the outstretched leg of the German international that Ronaldo was dashed by.

    About to turn 24, Hummels is already a mainstay for club and country and one of the most talented defenders Die Mannschaft has been able to call on for many years.

    (He brings to mind Franz Beckenbauer, after his reinvention as a sweeper.)

    Dortmund have been hotly tipped to win the Champions League this year, not least by Werder Bremen old boy Mesut Ozil (via Goal.com).

    Nobody wants to draw Real in the knockout phase, and nobody wants to land Dortmund.

    The good news for Real and Ronaldo is that, for now at least, that scenario is impossible.