Real Madrid fans were left a bit stunned this summer as we lost Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus. As the shock wore off, the prevailing question soon became one of ‘who do we get to replace him’? Names were being thrown around, and still are, of who could possibly fill his shoes. How do you replace someone who could easily be considered one of the greatest to play the sport? Who could possibly replace CR7?
We are not the only team who has lost major players; and Cristiano Ronaldo will not be the last major player we will lose. Honestly, this is a question that probably gets asked every time there is a major transfer or a player retires: who can possibly replace [insert player here]?
But are players truly replaceable in the grand scheme of things?
At first glance, the simple answer would seem to be yes. After all, football is still a business with measured goals to attain and a product to produce. Once an element in the machinery needs to be changed out (whether it has broken down or a newer part that is more efficient has come in) the change occurs quickly. Too much downtime is not good for the bottom line.
However, the reality is that the answer is not a simple yes. In fact, it’s much more nuanced.
Trying to work out who the replacement will be is an understandable and necessary question to ask — especially for the fanbase — to process who, and what, was lost. Losing someone from your team that was either a fan favourite or a key element can be a tough thing to stomach.
When you talk about a player, what do you mention first? Do you talk about their stats? The records they set? Or do you start a little more personal, with the moments that stuck with you the most? That one play that changed the outcome of an important game. That one goal that stunned the world. That pass-series that was out of this world.
There is no other Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro, nor will there ever be. Everyone that follows him will either be someone who surpasses his records or falls short of breaking them. Even if they tie the records he has set, there will be elements that Ronaldo has that no other player has. No other player will create the same memories that he did.
Players come and go. Seasons ebb and flow like the tide. Records were made to be broken. It is in this sense that players like Ronaldo are absolutely replaceable. One more goal to surpass a record may not be an easy feat, but it’s doable. The system may need to change to encompass the hole left by the outgoing player or adjust to an incoming player, but that can be done. Those memories though? Those moments that stick with you that make you smile when you remember them years down the road? That’s the bigger piece to players not being truly replaceable.