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Cristiano Ronaldo, Madrid’s spokesman


Given the inextricable relationship that exists between Real Madrid and Barcelona, the latter’s slip up at Anoeta has not only served to lift los madridistas’ spirits in La Liga, where the title race has been blown wide open again, but it has even inspired them ahead of their Champions League clash. It’s odd, but on the back of Barcelona losing, a comeback against Wolfsburg now seems more likely, or at least it does to me. So what am I talking about? I’ll explain: Barça’s shadow has been hanging over Madrid in recent years in much the same way Madrid’s used hang over Barça. Seeing the other team struggle is a source of motivation. Bad news for one equals good news for the other.

Madrid capitalised on the opportunity by wheeling out their figurehead, Cristiano Ronaldo, and surrounding him with trophies to get the fans behind the team as they try to mount a comeback on Tuesday night. When all is said and done, Cristiano is still the club’s best player by some distance. With 43 goals already in the bag, he is close to reaching the 50 mark yet again, something we have become accustomed to seeing him do. His 11 assists to date stand in stark contrast with his reputation for being a ballhog. He got the winner at Camp Nou, where since moving to Spain he has kept up with Messi’s Bernabéu exploits, which also calls into question the theory that he only scores against lesser opposition. And he is the all-time top scorer in the Champions League.

Conversely, Barça look downcast. Neymar played poorly in San Sebastian, while Messi was just ordinary. Both of them lack the inhuman levels of perseverance that Cristiano, who never allows his team-mates to switch off, possesses in spades. A few years back I sat between Manuel Pelligrini and Carlos Puyol at the AS Gala dinner. Both agreed that Cristiano’s greatest strength is his drive. He never gives up. That is one area in which he wipes the floor with Messi, whose dips in form can cause the whole team to look disinterested. Cristiano has made his stand and called for unity in build-up to the most important match of the year. He is the right man for the job.