In the wake of Real Madrid’s 1-0 loss to Villarreal on Sunday, the ongoing debate over the team’s two most talented players -– Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale –- was reopened. One rather surprising statistic that’s been leveled at the duo is their inability to score against big teams.
Ronaldo, the reigning World Player of the Year, has a respectable 22 goals in all competition, but none has come in the big games or against the big teams. His numbers don’t lie:
• Six goals against Malmo
• Five against Espanyol
• Five against Shakhtar Donetsk
• One each against Levante, Celta Vigo, Las Palmas, Eibar, Getafe
CR7’s goal total against the likes of Barcelona, Athletic Bilbao, Atletico Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, Sevilla, and Villarreal? Zero.
While Ronaldo has struggled against the big teams this season, Gareth Bale’s problems go back much further: In his first season in Spain, the Welshman scored one of the biggest goals in the club’s history, finding the net in extra time to give Real the lead in the Champions League final against Atletico.
Real would go on to win and claim La Decima, thanks in large part to Bale’s goal; he also netted the winner in Real Madrid’s 2-1 Spanish Cup triumph over Barcelona in 2014.
Since that flying start, the Welsh winger has scored exactly as many goals against elite teams as you have.
Atletico Madrid has proved a particularly difficult foe: In eight meetings with Los Blancos‘ crosstown rivals since the Champions League final, Bale hasn’t found the net against Atleti once.
Real Madrid obviously have other problems, none of which seem insurmountable at the moment. Closing a five-point deficit in La Liga at this stage is entirely doable. The Champions League round of 16 tie against Roma looks winnable, despite the interesting fact that Real Madrid haven’t won a two-legged tie against an Italian club since 1987.
But for Real Madrid to reach the heights they did two years ago and to once again start truly competing with the likes of Barcelona and Bayern Munich, manager Rafa Benitez is going to have to get more production out of his two stars in the big games against the big teams.