By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer
Cristiano Ronaldo returns. Possibly not since his debut in 2009 or in the Clasico clashes against Barcelona has there been such elevated expectation surrounding the performance of the Portuguese in a Real Madrid shirt. He was sad, now he is back on board, and reportedly happy again. Madrid will hope he is ready, too.
They need him now, as much as before – perhaps more than ever. Cristiano is the cornerstone of this Madrid model, and without him it could crumble. The Copa del Rey in 2010-11; La Liga last year; this term’s Spanish Supercopa – none of it would have been possible without him. Madrid are no one-man team, but much like Barcelona are a shadow of themselves when Lionel Messi is missing, Real rely on Ronaldo.
Before linking up with Portugal for the World Cup qualifiers against Luxembourg and Azerbaijan, the 27-year-old dropped a bombshell. After netting twice against Granada in a 3-0 win at the Santiago Bernabeu and refusing to celebrate his goals, he told a mystified Madrid media that he was unhappy – and that the club knew why.
The timing was terrible. An international break followed and a torrid 10 days passed before Ronaldo’s return on Wednesday. He has since met with Mourinho, his team-mates and club president Florentino Perez. And so far, so good. All, apparently, is well. The player has reportedly requested more support from the club in the media – much like Messi receives at Barca.
Now he will have to do his talking on the pitch. Madrid meet Sevilla at the Sanchez Pizjuan on Saturday and all eyes will be on Cristiano. How will he play? Will he play well? Will he score? And if he does, will he celebrate the goals?
At his pre-match press conference on Friday, Mourinho claimed he can stomach sadness for Cristiano, providing the player’s performances do not dip. “If he is sad but plays as he can do, then that’s fine by me,” the coach quipped.
That is unlikely to be true, however. Mourinho knows full well that a prosperous player is likely to be a happy one and he will be doing everything he needs to behind the scenes to ensure his star man is fit, focused and feliz.
Mourinho was more concerned by his side’s stuttering start to La Liga. Yes, they have claimed the Spanish Supercopa by beating Barca, but four points from nine in the Primera Division is well below what is expected – and Real are already five behind the Catalans.
So the Portuguese will look to his compatriot on Saturday to produce something spectacular in Seville, where he has scored seven in his two league games under Mourinho. In 2010-11, Ronaldo racked up four in a 6-2 win, before adding three more in an identical scoreline last term. More of the same will leave Madridistas merry and the Cristiano crisis will be averted – at least for now.
Barca, meanwhile, pit their wits against a Getafe side who beat them last season and who have already defeated Madrid in the current campaign. Coach Tito Vilanova is without Alexis Sanchez and Andres Iniesta after both were injured on international duty, while Jordi Alba is ill. Messi, who has played every single minute for the Catalans in 2012-13, may be rested, too, after playing twice for Argentina in this week’s World Cup qualifiers.
It is only round four of La Liga, but already it looks like Satuday’s clashes could be key as the competition continues. And, as usual, Ronaldo and Messi are at the forefront. Especially the Portuguese.
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