clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Do Real Madrid rely too heavily on Cristiano Ronaldo?

New, comments

Los Blancos have struggled for goals in their pre-season matches - will Cristiano Ronaldo be required to score a hatful again this year?

Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

It doesn't take long to strike up a crisis at Real Madrid and while the latest talking point is yet to creep near the big red button that reads ‘PANIC', there is some cause for concern less than a fortnight before the start of the season.

Madrid head into the new campaign, Bernabéu Trophy clash against Galarasaray aside, without a goal in their last two matches. A 0-0 draw in Oslo against Valerenga followed a 1-0 defeat against Bayern Munich in Bavaria to leave Los Blancos with back-to-back games without a goal for the first time since 2011.

Of course, it needs noting that these games were both friendlies, both opportunities for coach Rafa Benítez to test things out ahead of the Liga kick-off on August 23 in Gijon. Little sleep will have been. It's also worth noting that big names were missing, namely Cristiano Ronaldo, the team's talisman and runaway top scorer last season. It is worth pointing out that it is only two games, although this is Real Madrid.

The last time Madrid endured such a dreadful, ahem, run came almost four years ago with Jose Mourinho at the helm. A 1-0 loss at Levante was followed by a 0-0 draw in Santander. Since then the ten-time European champions have never gone more than one game on the spin without the back of the net. Understandable, given the riches thrown at the team - especially in attack.

There are no panic stations yet and a betting men would still fancy Los Blancos to be one of the two top-scorers in La Liga in 2015-16 - the other team, of course, being Barcelona. The performances in these last two matches may be taken with a pinch of salt but the questions marks over Madrid's attacking threat ahead of the new campaign should not be completely binned off.

The question marks will surround Madrid's attack without Cristiano Ronaldo. Last season's Liga top-scorer, with 48 goals (five more than Lionel Messi in the league), was missing from both of the goalless encounters and it may be no coincidence. His absence should leave few feeling sorry for mega-bucks Madrid given stars such as Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez are amongst those supporting the former Manchester United man in the attack, but Madrid often do not look the same without him. They certainly didn't in Norway or Munich.

Ronaldo was Madrid's runaway top-scorer last season with 48 goals in La Liga. Next on the list? Benzema with 15. Bale and James were both two behind with 13 but the discrepancy between top-scorer and the rest was huge. Bigger than over in Catalonia. Unlike the end of the 2013-14 season, where Ronaldo limped towards the end of the season and through the World Cup, he remained largely unscathed last term. If the 30-year-old is not so lucky this season it will be interesting to see how Madrid adapt to life without him.

Any side would struggle without the goals of the Portuguese international. But while Neymar and Luis Suárez seem apt to plug any gap left by Messi, Madrid do not seem to have an out-and-out goalscorer who is guaranteed to find goals. James enjoyed a superb first season in the Spanish capital last season, with some superb strikes to boot, while Bale and Benzema are both players more than capable of finding the back of the net on a regular basis. They have not always looked like that without Ronaldo helping them out, however.

Last season's Liga top-scorer has often been labeled as selfish in the past, a player who depends on the hard work of players such as Benzema and James to shine, but they also need Ronaldo to do likewise. Madrid's talisman also showed his unselfish side last season and that helped his teammates in a difficult campaign.

Benitez has tried alternatives. A clear focus has been placed on Bale playing just behind the striker but he has struggled to shine. Borja Mayoral has been given opportunities and although an exciting career awaits the youngster his time may not be now, not in Madrid's first team. Benzema will get goals but will not the heights of Ronaldo and Bale showed last season that his game is based on confidence. He needs to get that back. James and Isco will create, and chip in with their fair share, but will not start any further forward than an attacking midfield role. Jese looks more suited to a role out wide.

There is still time for Madrid to bolster their attack but the rumours and reports have been few and far between. Florentino Perez has long admired former Atletico Madrid forward Sergio Aguero and the Argentine has made a few column inches surrounding a possible move to the Bernabeu but looks happy at Manchester City. David de Gea aside, there has been no push from the often influential Madrid press. It's all quiet on the western front.

With respect to Gijon and Betis, Madrid could well kick-off the new season with two thumping wins, in-line with the numerous emphatic victories they chalked up last season. Any lingering doubts surround the attack could be well and truly put to bed. However, four stalemates in the pre-season so far, for a club such as Madrid, shows improvements need to be made. Cristiano Ronaldo is set to be another influential figure for Madrid this season, one that could see him rise above Raúl as the club's all-time leading scorer, but only time will tell as to whether Madrid will be the same if they lose him.