It was a lovely day in the office for Real Madrid in their face-off with Levante in the Cope Del Rey match that took place on the 22nd of December. With hat tricks from Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo and goals from Mesut Ozil and Pedro Leon, the team was able to come out with an 8-0 victory in front of the home crowd. It was a victory that Levante coach Luis Garcia described as tricycles (Levante) vs motorbikes (Real Madrid).
It was also a time to unleash castilla player Alvaro Morata to make his home debut. The fans chanted his name as he made his way onto the pitch, and he left his mark with a low shot that got deflected by the opposing goal keeper to a free Pedro Leon, who comfortably sent the ball home for the eight and final goal of the night (Pepe almost scalped Morata. Not good).
It was a beautiful performance by the team, and I'll give the Man of the Match award to everybody that played.
What impressed me the most at the beginning of the match was the midfield combo of Xabi Alonso and Estaban Granero. Just some days earlier, against Sevilla, Mourinho had started with a midfield combination of Lassana Diarra and Sami Khedira due to the suspension of Alonso who picked up his fifth yellow card the previous week against Real Zaragoza.
Need I say it was a mistake? The duo lacked any form of creativity and vision. In fact Khedira was quite disappointing because the ball control he displayed on the few occasions he found the ball at his feet was not impressive at all.
Lass, on the other hand, was superb but he wasn't too successful in his attempts to play the Alonso role. The French man is good at what he does, which is to harangue the opponents' attackers, and interrupt their flow, but when you put him in a position were he has to orchestrate play and begin the attack, then you lose him. He will do better playing beside a deep lying play maker in Alonso or Granero.
However, he played as right back against Levante and he was awesome. Like I said, it was a wonderful day at the office for every Madridista, on and off the field.
But in all the carousal and conviviality, I noticed somebody, Ronaldo. He seemed, unusually, less agitated and calm on the field. We've all gotten used to seeing the Ronaldo that doesn't fail to hide his frustration anytime an opponent roughly tackles him or the referee makes/doesn't make a call that's supposed to be in his favor.
But last night he looked quite reserved. He simply stood up and continued play anytime he expected a call and didn't get it, and he never confronted a Levante player for taking him down.
Some people may relate the cause of this to the Tonsillitis fever he suffered from just before the match, but I wouldn't say so. This his new calmness was also noticed in the previous game against Sevilla.
In all the confrontations and ruckus that accompanied the 12 yellow and two red cards that were shown in that match, Ronaldo was not singled out for anything. He only showed up to shield his teammates (Di Maria and Ozil) from angry Sevilla players who couldn't help but pour their frustration out on the men in white.
Let me clear something up. I've always loved Ronaldo, and his supposed "arrogance" has never reduced my admiration for his abilities, and it never will. But his attitude is one thing haters love to hate.
The Portuguese is an embodiment of hard work, perseverance, athleticism, elegance and passion. His willingness to succeed in the game is only as much as it gets. Yet haters/non-fans choose to single him out for the one flaw he has, which is his behavior.
It's necessary to sympathize with Ronaldo's attitude on and off the pitch. This guy is consistently subjected to lots of unfair criticism and aspersions coming from all parts of the media, players and even coaches for rather frivolous reason. The "arrogant" attitude some people see on the field is only a bubble the former world player of the year has created to shield himself from such distractions.
He uses the hatred he gets to motivate himself. If you don't know what I'm talking about, watch the game against Sporting Gijon again. Everybody has a source of motivation, and for CR, he has taken what might have discouraged many others, to encourage himself into the somewhat hyperactive phenomenon we love to watch.
That said, I've always hoped to see a much calmer Ronaldo. One that could show less emotions on the field and still produce results (I'm not hoping for a saint, we already have one in Iker). Dani Alves made some comments two weeks ago about Ronaldo, and even though I try not to listen to what some Barcelona players and staff have to say, I thought there was some truth in what he said. I quote:
"To be the best player in the world, you cannot just play well, you must also be liked by other people, and I understand that his attitude ends up hurting, a little, the great player that he really is," Alves said.
He went on to say, "I do not doubt that Cristiano is one of the best players in the world today, and he has many skills, but at the same time he also has flaws. I think that the best player in the world should be quiet, humble, and friendly. Lionel Messi is all of these things, while Cristiano often lacks some of these qualities.”
He practically said it all. Ronaldo is undoubtedly one of the best players ever, and will surely go down in history as one of the many greats, but his behavior serves as a silver platter for haters to dwell.
Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but if you haven't watched the last two games against Sevilla and Levante, please do, and while you're at it pay close attention to Ronaldo. I really think something has gotten to him.
Now, there are two things that might have happened:
Mourinho has talked to him
Has Ronaldo changed?
He's succumbing to criticism from outside the club.
If the first one is the case then it's good news. I'd expect Jose to tell him to calm down and not take laws into his own hands: Something like, "Calm down Ronaldo, don't fight any battles, let me fight them for you."
Hence, the list of 13 referee mistakes that he compiled after the Sevilla match, just to prove to Ronaldo that he has his back.
If the second one is the case, then it's bad news. There are lots of more problems heading Real Madrid's way if they are going to really compete for any trophy this season and the last thing the club would want is for a key player to fold under the pressure.
The second one is particularly bad because it will mean he's not getting enough support from his team, hence, a severe drop in his psychological drive to play ball. Nobody would want that to happen.
One way or the other, Cristiano Ronaldo will always have support of Real Madrid and its fans (just as long as he doesn't leave).
Having made all these observations, a big congratulations to Alvaro Morata, Pablo Sarabia, Antonio Adan, Juan Carlos and Mateos, who all made their first-team debuts this season. We hope for more playing time and more appearances of our canteranos next year.
The team couldn't have ended the year on a better note. The match against Levante was a perfect way to say Merry Christmas to us and now we can hope for a Prosperous new year.
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