Cristiano Ronaldo 'sadness' sets alarm bells ringing at Real Madrid – but exit talk is far too premature

Cristiano Ronaldo no festeja

Cristiano Ronaldo / Getty

ANALYSIS
By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer

It should have been a happy occasion. Real Madrid were afforded a heroes’ return to the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday, four days after claiming the Spanish Supercopa with victory over Barcelona, as the home crowd witnessed a wonderful display by Luka Modric on his full debut and saw Cristiano Ronaldo score twice to take his tally at the club to an incredible 150 goals in just over three seasons.

But the Portuguese wasn’t happy.

Ronaldo refused to celebrate his goals, before departing with a thigh strain and the same pained expression etched on his face after 63 minutes. Later, he dropped a bomb in the mixed zone. “I am sad,” he said. “That’s why I didn’t celebrate. And the club know why.”

Within the hour, several sectors of the Spanish media mused that it may be the end for the 27-year-old at Real. Both Punto Pelota and El Larguero claimed Cristiano wants to leave Madrid, with later reports revealing a Saturday meeting with Florentino Perez in which the Portuguese is said to have expressed his dissatisfaction at the capital club.

So what had gone wrong since the smiles and hugs on Wednesday night?

There were theories aplenty. Ronaldo, some speculated, was unhappy at the club’s treatment of close friends Kaka, Ricardo Carvalho and Fabio Coentrao. No, he was angry at a recent Marcelo interview in which the Brazilian claimed Iker Casillas should win the Ballon d’Or, others opined. Or because he had lost out to Andres Iniesta in the Uefa European player prize on Thursday.


I am sad because of a professional issue and the club know why. That’s why I didn’t celebrate the goals, because I am not happy

Cristiano Ronaldo

In truth, however, it appears much more than that. Cristiano is struggling to snap out of a deep depression which began as his Portugal side lost out to Spain in the semi-finals of Euro 2012. On top of that came a stuttering start to the season with two poor performances and only one point picked up in Madrid’s opening Liga matches against Valencia and Getafe. Beating Barca helped – but it wasn’t enough.

Ronaldo is reported to have told Perez he is no longer happy at the Bernabeu, perhaps in an attempt to secure a lucrative, long-term contract at a club where he once claimed he would like to spend the remainder of his playing days, but more likely because he feels he lacks support at institutional level.

Ronaldo‘s relationship with Iker Casillas has also been called into question. The goalkeeper is said to be the choice of many at Madrid to win the Ballon d’Or later this year, a prize the Portuguese thinks he himself deserves after landing La Liga for his side last term, for the first time since 2007-08.

And while Barca mollycoddle Messi, Cristiano believes he is left hung out to dry when things don’t go well at Madrid, and not afforded pertinent protection from above. In short, he isn’t feeling the love at the Bernabeu.

Talk of a possible departure, however, appears premature. Ronaldo revealed after the game on Sunday that he will now concentrate on Portugal and their upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Luxembourg and Azerbaijan this week. That, he said, was “more important” than dwelling on his Madrid malaise.

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And while the press pondered an embarrassing exit for the world’s most expensive player, Gonzalo Higuain called for calm. “Cristiano seems fine to us,” the Argentine assured.

The whole affair is somewhat similar to the situation at Madrid with Jose Mourinho earlier this year. Questioned by fans and the media after a poor performance against Barcelona in January, news broke that the 49-year-old was set on leaving the club; he himself had filtered information to the press in a bid to gain superior support from above in the light of criticism from several quarters. Now, the same thing is happening with Cristiano and, as with Mourinho, it is he who has chosen to make his unhappiness a public matter when usually such issues are dealt with behind the scenes.

Having departed with a thigh strain on Sunday, few reporters expected to see Ronaldo in the mixed zone after Madrid’s 3-0 win over Granada. Fewer still will have envisaged what was to follow, but the Portuguese was clearly keen to air his grievance with the club in an attempt to either win more support or a lucrative new contract. Probably both.

The timing is unfortunate, however, with Ronaldo now away with Portugal for the next nine days. But when he returns, expect it all to die down because, as he sits down and considers his future, he will realise Real Madrid remains the best place for him to achieve his goals. Like Mourinho, who ended up being backed by the board and signing an improved deal in the summer, he just needs a little love from above.

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Mourinho: Kaka is not a dead weight

Jose Mourinho has stressed that Kaka still has a role to play at Real Madrid, and added that the attacking midfielder will get the chance to prove his worth at some point this season.

The Brazil international was continually linked with a return to AC Milan throughout the summer, but the move did not materialise because of financial reasons.

“Neither Kaka nor anyone else is a dead weight,” Mourinho stated at a press conference.

“Against Granada we went in another direction, [Karim] Benzema, [Jose] Callejon, and [Luka] Modric played and we also wanted to give some rest to those who played against Barca.

“The three who were left out were the first choices, but there will be a time when Kaka will be an option once more.”

The 30-year-old midfielder has yet to feature in an official game for Madrid this term.

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Vilanova unconcerned by Cristiano Ronaldo's problems

Barcelona boss Tito Vilanova refused to be drawn on the furore surrounding Cristiano Ronaldo’s post match comments on Sunday evening.

After Real Madrid’s convincing 3-0 demolition of Granada, in which he scored his 150th goal in a Madrid shirt, the Portguese international told reporters of his unhappiness with a ‘professional issue’ that the club were aware of.

Vilanova was then asked for his opinion on the events unfolding at Santiago Bernabeu, but preferred to focus on the players under his guidance.

“I have enough to worry about seeing how my own players are, let alone worrying about Cristiano Ronaldo’s situation,” the 42-year-old told reporters in his post-match press conference.

The Blaugrana manager went on to discuss his side’s fine start to the season, emphasising the importance of gaining an early advantage in the race for the La Liga crown.

“It’s important to finish a game to zero, but during the first half we could have scored one more goal to be keep them [Valencia] quieter.”

“It’s very important to start with nine points. I’m sure the [playing] level will increase during the year. I do not think any team is at optimum level yet.”

'I didn't celebrate because I'm unhappy' – Cristiano Ronaldo makes shock claim after Madrid win

Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo made the shock claim that he was unhappy with the club after he refused to celebrate his 149th and 150th Los Blancos goals in the win over Granada on Sunday.

The Portuguese was the catalyst behind his side’s first win of the new La Liga season but his lack of elation on the back of two landmark strikes was the main talking point after the game, a storyline he developed on after full time.

“I’m sad because of a professional issue and the club know why. That’s why I didn’t celebrate the goals, because I’m not happy. The people [at the club] know why.” he told reporters after the match.

“It’s nothing to do with Iniesta [winning European player award]. I won’t talk about this any more and I will concentrate on Portugal for now. There are more important things [than this].”

“The people at the club know about this. I can’t say any more.”

'I want more from my team' – Mourinho demands improvement despite 3-0 win over Granada

Real Madrid recorded their first three points of the season with 3-0 win over Granada on Sunday night, yet manager Jose Mourinho remained distinctly underwhelmed with his side’s performance.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s 149th and 150th strikes in Madrid colours and a third from Gonzalo Higuain secured the Los Blancos their first three point haul of the new campaign, but the Portuguese tactician was more than conservative with his praise.

“The team didn’t play badly, but I want more,” Mourinho told reporters at the post-match press conference.

“We had little time to prepare during the week but we must be in top form.”

He was, however, delighted to see his new signing Luka Modric in action. On his inclusion in the squad, Mourinho remarked “It was important for Modric to play tonight. He responded well and had a positive game.”

Madrid’s next game sees them travel to Sevilla.