Analyzing Cristiano Ronaldo's Role with Gareth Bale Transfer Imminent
With Andre Villas-Boas finally publicly confirming what has been rumoured for months now—that Real Madrid and Tottenham were in the final stages of negotiating a transfer for Gareth Bale—it has raised more questions for Real Madrid than provided answers.
With a slew of talented attacking players already available on the squad, who would be left out? Would anyone be sold to make way for Bale? Will Bale—who has been skipping on his Tottenham training—be fit?
And most importantly, what does this all mean for Cristiano Ronaldo?
No question is more important for Real Madrid this year and beyond than the last one. While it has always been likely that Los Blancos would have to sell a player to make room for Bale and gain some money back after spending world-record cash to land him—and Angel Di Maria looks the most likely to be sold—how Ronaldo responds to the transfer is key.
Beyond the "Will he get over no longer being the world-record for a transfer?" nonsense, on the pitch there are interesting factors to consider.
While you could easily see Ronaldo staying on the left wing and Bale slotting on the right, that would leave three talented players—Isco, Mesut Ozil and Kaka—vying for time as the No. 10. While Karim Benzema will start at striker, his deputies would be the young but raw Alvaro Morata and Jese Rodriguez.
Now, if Di Maria sticks around, he would deputize Bale on the right while either Ozil or Isco could slide to the left wing when called upon.
But what if Ronaldo played more centrally this season as a striker, a role he and Carlo Ancelotti tinkered with during the preseason?
That would allow Ozil and Isco to be on the pitch alongside Bale in an attacking midfield trio, and it would probably free up more time for Di Maria as well. Benzema would lose time in this setup, but given his inconsistency at forward that may not be lamented by Real Madrid fans.
Truly, the left wing is where Ronaldo is the most dangerous. His pace, nimble feet and ability to strike from a distance make him the ideal candidate to exploit the space on the wing. Playing centrally, he won't have as much freedom to make the blinding runs that have marked his tenure at Real Madrid.
But playing both Ronaldo and Bale on the wings could be tricky. Both like to drift centrally and even spend time in the No. 10 role, so having both out wide could compromise width for Los Blancos.
And having Ronaldo playing as the striker could actually increase his goal tally, which is hard to imagine given how deadly he already is. But one of the most underrated facets of his game is his ability in the air, as he has excellent leaping ability and has shown in the pass to be an accurate finisher with his head.
More than likely, Real Madrid's starting 11 will remain rather fluid throughout the season, with Ronaldo playing both on the left and as a centre-forward, Bale playing on either wing, Di Maria remaining on the right (if he sticks around) and Ozil and Isco playing both on the left wing and as the No. 10.
What position would you like to see Ronaldo play this season?
At the end of the day, Ronaldo is going to play where he wants to play. If he is the most comfortable on the left, he'll stay on the left. If he fancies playing at striker more often, Ancelotti will humor him (heck, he already said as much).
Bale or no Bale, Ronaldo is still Real Madrid's best player, and the role he wants is the role he'll get. The real question will be, however, whether that role will ultimately be what is best for the club.
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