Eighty-four percent of participants in an AS survey agreed with Zinedine Zidane’s decision to substitute Cristiano Ronaldo in Las Palmas, despite the score being 2-1 when he left the pitch and the game ending in a draw. The statistic should give Ronaldo cause for some reflection. His problem isn’t Zidane, it is his knee, which is causing a loss of form that has made him unrecognizable so far this season. I read in AS that the injury is still a little unstable. Ronaldo has lost three kilos to lighten the load on his knee but in doing so he has also sacrificed some of the extra energy that has always been a key component of his game. He is far from his best form.
What Ronaldo needs is patience, a virtue that, like most people, he finds hard to exercise. But in his case it is more necessary than in others because without his peak physical condition he loses a lot as a player. Now that Álvaro Morata and Lucas Vázquez -- two excellent, hardworking players who enjoy an extra dose of affection at the Bernabéu for coming through the youth teams -- are pushing for a place in the team Ronaldo can no longer comfortably assume ownership of a starting place in attack. It doesn’t do anyone much good if Ronaldo, despite playing poorly, is on the pitch while Morata and Vázquez are watching from the bench.
On Tuesday Ronaldo will return against Dortmund, as Zidane stated in the dressing room after the Las Palmas game. We’ll see how his form progresses. He is in no way a negligible player, as we saw against Sporting Lisbon. He didn’t play well, but he rattled a post and scored a goal. But Ronaldo right now is not the player who in game after game has mitigated for the side’s defects with his continuous runs, his incessant dedication to attack, his shots from all angles, his constant menace and his 50-plus goals a season. The prescription is patience.