“If we were all at my level maybe we would be leaders”
No doubt you will have seen the above quote from Cristiano Ronaldo after his Real Madrid team were beaten by their cross city rivals Atletico. Taken at face value most of us would agree that having eleven Ronaldo’s in your team would almost guarantee victory any given Saturday. Here is a player who has mesmerized us ever since he first broke through at Manchester United, but if you had a team packed with Ronaldos, each believing they are the main man, then success wouldn’t be forthcoming.
But, and I never thought I would ever be saying this, in defence of the Portuguese winger. I don’t believe this is what he was alluding to.
On Sunday Ronaldo may have been frustrated by his team-mates performances but the truth is that they were beaten by a group of individuals who their manager, Diego Simone, has got playing as a team. At times their style of football may not be as aesthetically pleasing as the traditional big two in Spain but it is effective, and it is effective because the Atletico players play for one another.
Like all successful teams Atletico are a team made up of smaller pockets of players who combine together to produce a sum that is greater than their parts.
The full back needs to form a cohesive unit with his winger, whom he supports when the team are going forward but also requires assistance from when they are defending. In addition the full back needs to know he can trust his centre half to cover him but also he must be willing to return the favour. Similarly the centre half needs an understanding with his defensive partner but also with the midfielder playing in front of him. The defensive midfielder with not just the centre halves but also his fellow midfielders and so on throughout the team.
Ronaldo continued his post-match interview by stating, “I like to play with Karim, with Bale, with Marcelo. I’m not saying the others like Lucas Vazquez, Jese and Mateo Kovacic are not good players – they are very good players – but it’s not the same”
Whilst we all know Bale and Benzema’s role within the team, and the interactions they would have with Ronaldo during the course of the game, but in mentioning Marcelo, the fullback upon whose shoulders most of the brilliance Ronaldo produces is built, I believe Ronaldo was explaining where he thought Madrid’s problems lay. The absence of the building blocks upon which great teams are built.
I know there are many of us who, whilst marvelling at Ronaldo’s brilliance footballing prowess, sneer at the man we believe him to be, arrogant, aloof and vain. And he may be such a man but he is also always amongst the last to leave the training ground and, if his quotes at the weekend were a plea for Bale, Marcelo and Benzema to hurry back from injury, then it appears he is also aware of the shoulders upon which his greatness is founded.
So, just this once, let us give Ronaldo the benefit of the doubt and try to believe that the man from Portugal understands the beautiful game is not just about him.