Cristiano Ronaldo was not happy in the slightest (see video below) about being subbed off in the 72nd minute of a recent La Liga fixture against Las Palmas. There is no doubt that the Portuguese is still regarded as one of the best two players in the world along with Lionel Messi, but at the age of 31, it may be that his output and ability to close out matches in congested fixture schedules starts to wane. Zinedine Zidane will be well aware of the implications should his superstar forward contract an injury and will be looking to avoid this at all costs.
Real Madrid were leading 2-1 against Las Palmas, and Zidane’s choice to remove the three-time Ballon d’Or winner before the close of play was obviously a move to safeguard his star player for the Champions League fixtures in the week. However, the Frenchman’s decision was not vindicated as the team from Gran Canaria equalised, resulting in Los Blancos dropping points for the second time in a row.
Although they have drawn two matches so far, at the time of writing, Zidane’s side top the table in Spain’s top flight and are at 13/8 in the La Liga betting markets to be crowned champions at the end of the season. Their main rivals Barcelona have already suffered one shock defeat this season at the hands of Alaves, but Real remain unbeaten. The Galacticos do have a few obstacles in their way, though, including a transfer ban which means they won’t be able to sign any new players in January should they feel the need to bolster the squad.
Ronaldo’s withdrawal before the close of play for the second time this season clearly vexed the player, and Zidane would be wise not to fall out of favour with the Euro 2016 winner. The former Manchester United man does not believe that he is declining in fitness and wants to see out the full 90 minutes in every fixture going. If he feels he is being treated unfairly he may seek a move elsewhere in what would be a devastating blow to the Spanish side.
Favourite to win the Ballon d’Or for a fourth time this year, Ronaldo is still one of the most sought after players in the world. When Jose Mourinho was installed at Manchester United there was speculation that the two world beaters could reunite at Old Trafford. United have shown that they are willing to splash huge amounts of cash on former players, so the move would not be out of the question.
Ronaldo was not only born to be the centre of attention, he visibly craves to hog the limelight. But in a team packed full of other world-class stars like Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, if the 31-year-old feels he is being pushed into a more peripheral role he will certainly not hang around. Zidane has a tough choice to make, preserve his most important player and continue to displease him, or let him play every minute and risk serious injury? There are sure to be more twists in this tale before the season is through.