The Emperor of Rome
Veni, vidi, vici. In true ancient Roman fashion, Zidane came, saw and conquered. I’m well aware that emotions can be heightened on the back of a European win, but I get the feeling that this Real Madrid side are getting stronger with the passing of each match. After the final whistle last night Sergio Ramos, the Bernabéu’s modern-day centurion, proclaimed from the Stadio Olimpico sideline that: “Zidane is a great manager and we're extremely satisfied with him”. Trust and a mutual understanding of the Frenchman have resulted in total commitment from the players. I read a quote by the Lebanese essayist and poet Khalil Gibran the other day that described Zizou to a tee: “To understand the heart and mind of a person, look not at what he has already achieved, but at what he aspires to”. Following a legendary playing career the midfield wizard has turned to management and now wants to be recognised not just as the hero of La Novena, but also as a tactical heavyweight. That peach of goal in Glasgow has been permanently burnt into the retinas of every Real Madrid fan, but if he were to help Los Blancos to another European triumph in Milan (28 May) the magnitude of his feat would be undeniable even for the most diehard of anti-madridistas. Could Florentino’s eleventh managerial appointment win him La Undécima? It’s a curious numerical coincidence. If that’s how destiny is to play out, who are we to question this marvellous journey?
Cristiano, the Phenomenon. In the words of Valdano speaking on beIN Sports after the match: “When Ronaldo is Ronaldo, Madrid are Madrid”. You can’t underestimate his God-given talent. At 31 years of age the Portuguese has capped off yet another tremendous week to add to his ever-growing scrapbook. He produced a carbon copy of his cracker against Athletic Club (cutting a darting run forward with a flick behind his standing leg before launching the ball into the top corner) to open the scoring in the Italian capital last night in a tensely poised tie. Gorka and Szyzesny, two fine goalkeepers in their own right, both looked on helplessly as the Madrid rematador’s strikes evaded their out-stretched arms. Two unstoppable shots and two stunning goals that befit the Champions League’s most prolific goal scorer of all time (89 goals). Cristiano has hit the mark 33 times already this season and the sky’s the limit as far as his end of season tally goes. Zidane has once again put him in his favourite position, out on the left from where he can rediscover his most deadly form. What he said ahead of the Roma game is true: he doesn’t need hugs or kisses. On the pitch, where he is the unquestionable Alfa dog, his body language speaks a thousand words. Like the Vandals did in the fifth century, Cristiano put the Romans to the sword last night and announced himself the new ruler in town.