By his own lofty standards, Cristiano Ronaldo appears to be undergoing something of a torrid time at the moment. The Real Madrid forward has been widely criticized for kicking out at defender Francisco Molinero in Madrid’s 1-1 draw with Real Betis last weekend. The kick, described as an “ugly gesture” by Molinero, is just the latest sign that all is not well in Ronaldo’s world. One week earlier, the three-time Ballon d’Or winner was accused of kicking out at midfielder, Nacho Cases during a 5-1 destruction of Sporting Gijon. Ronaldo denied it was deliberate at the time, but in light of the attack against Molinero, that claim seems less convincing.
It’s been a frustrating season for Ronaldo who, despite his 16 goals in La Liga, has been visibly off his form. It’s notable that none of Ronaldo’s goals this season have come against the likes of Barcelona, Sevilla, Athletic Bilbao, Atletico Madrid, Valencia or Villarreal. Earlier in the season, it was easy to put it down to the former Manchester United winger being played out of position by Rafa Benitez,however, under the new management of Zinedine Zidane, we’ve seen Ronaldo’s frustrations seemingly become more compounded. Reports in Spain say Ronaldo’s nose may be out of joint over Madrid’s behind-the-scenes moves to bring Neymar to the club.
Ronaldo turns 31 in a few days and may be struggling to come to grips with the fact that his powers might be on the wane. The player who has worked so hard to cultivate the tag of ‘Best Player in the World’ has seen his stock falling of late with some suggesting Neymar deserved to be named as this year’s Ballon d’Or runner up, not Ronaldo. The fact that the club where he has enjoyed his greatest success may be angling to replace him with the Brazilian only adds insult to injury. Further complicating matters is the leaked revelation that he is no longer the most expensive player in history, but that distinction now belongs to teammate Gareth Bale.
The leaked report has only heightened the sense of awkwardness and mistrust between the Portuguese and the club that has always told him he was the most expensive player. Despite some rather desperate reports in the Spanish press to assuage Ronaldo by fudging the math to insist that he is the most expensive player after all, the situation seems on the verge of unraveling.
With Real already eliminated from the Copa del Rey for fielding an ineligible player and sitting a full seven points behind leaders Barcelona in the race for the La Liga title, the Champions League remains Madrid’s only realistic hope of a trophy this season. However, if the 10-time European champions are to maintain any hope of kicking on for an 11th title, Zidane will have to get Ronaldo back on track. Otherwise, we are likely to see more impetuous behavior from the club’s all-time leading goal-scorer.