Last summer, Cristiano Ronaldo sent shockwaves through world football when he decided to leave Real Madrid to join Juventus. This decision seemed difficult to understand at the time from both sporting and marketing perspectives, coming off three consecutive Champions League titles and being on the most marketable team in the world.
However, behind the scenes there was friction with president Florentino Perez who was unwilling to satisfy Ronaldo’s wage demands. Ronaldo took the hesitation as enough of a slight to leave the club. Ronaldo felt that his performance, especially in the Champions League, was enough to earn him a pay raise, while Florentino seemingly felt that Ronaldo was a beneficiary of a nearly perfect team that Florentino crafted. The reality is both sides are partially right.
In Ronaldo’s first four seasons with Real Madrid, the club only produced one La Liga title, and not even a Champions League finals appearance. It was evident that Ronaldo, even with a solid supporting cast, could not win at Real Madrid without squad improvements.
Consequently, between 2012 and 2015, president Florentino Perez made several smart signings, specifically Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Isco, while bringing back and promoting players such as Casemiro and Carvajal, who were all instrumental in Real Madrid’s European success over Ronaldo’s last five seasons at the club. Even the much-maligned Gareth Bale, produced several signature moments in the Champions League, scoring the winner in the 2014 and 2018 finals.
In Ronaldo’s last five seasons, he won four Champions. However, in his last season at the club, Real Madrid had its worst La Liga season during his time at the club, and it was clear to Perez that despite Champions League success, changes were needed, and it was tough to justify paying Ronaldo.
Almost 18 months later neither side is satisfied. Real Madrid suffered a humiliating season, with its worst performance in the Champions League since 2010 and finished a distant third in La Liga with 68 points, a total markedly lower than any season in which Ronaldo was there.
However, Ronaldo also had his worst season since before he joined Real Madrid, only managing to win a league title that is virtually guaranteed to Juventus before the season started as other high payroll teams in Serie A each got weaker last summer. In the Champions League, the competition that Ronaldo was brought in to win, Juventus lost to Ajax, a team they had been heavily favored to beat. Meanwhile Ronaldo’s goal output also drastically decreased from his Real Madrid averages from 1.06 goals per game in League and Champions League matches to just .68 goals per game last season.
Both teams will be hoping for improvement this season following significant investment from each club, with Real Madrid spending over $300 million this summer, and Juventus bringing in coveted defender Matthijs de Ligt from Ajax. However, the results have not been promising so far, with Real Madrid unable to capitalize on Barcelona’s early struggles in La Liga, and Juventus struggling to separate themselves in a Serie A race they are expected to dominate. So far as things stand, both Ronaldo and Real Madrid have disappointed without each other, and one has to believe that each side wishes they handled last summer differently.
Vikram Sud is a senior in the college. FROM THE SPOT appears online and in print every other Friday.