Real Madrid sit just two points behind current La Liga leaders Sevilla but the Los Blancos have come under increasing fire after failing to score a single goal in their last four games.
Real have struggled to replicate the Portuguese superstar’s goals this season and former manager Manuel Pellegrini has expressed his surprise that the club sanctioned his departure to Juventus.
The West Ham manager spent one season in the Spanish capital with the club with his side finishing second in the league despite accumulating 96 points.
Speaking on Spanish radio show El Larguero, the Chilean said, “Madrid have lost a lot of goals; Cristiano took too many goals with him when he left. He should have ended his career in Madrid and I was surprised they allowed him to leave.”
However, Pellegrini believes the two players are vastly different from Ronaldo and will struggle to replace the Portuguese’s phenomenal goal-scoring numbers.
“There is a difference between (Gareth) Bale and Cristiano, who has made the difference for the last 10 years,” the West Ham manager stated.
“He (Benzema) has been at Madrid for nine years and has a goals average he will maintain. He is a mixture between a creative player and one who operates on the edge of the area.”
Real Madrid will hope to break their goal-scoring drought when they welcome Levante to the Bernabeu on October 20 following the completion of the international break.
It includes a total of 11 Premier League players – Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba, Kane and his Spurs team-mate Hugo Lloris, Liverpool’s Alisson Becker, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, and Chelsea pair Eden Hazard and N’Golo Kante.
There are two England players among the nominees for the inaugural Women’s Ballon d’Or – Lyon defender Lucy Bronze and Chelsea forward Fran Kirby.
And England and Liverpool full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold has been named on a 10-man shortlist for the new Kopa Trophy for players under the age of 21.
Kane captained his country to the semi-finals of the summer’s World Cup in Russia, and finished as the tournament’s top-scorer with six goals.
Bale scored twice in Real’s Champions League final win over Liverpool in May.
Ronaldo, who last week firmly denied allegations of rape, was also part of that triumph before moving to Juventus in July.
Another man on the list who was part of Real’s Champions League success is Luka Modric, who went on to lead Croatia on their run to the World Cup final.
They were beaten 4-2 in the final by France, and there are six of the victorious Les Bleus team on the list in Pogba, Lloris, Kante, Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe – also nominated for the Kopa Trophy – and Real’s Raphael Varane.
The Ballon d’Or, now separate from FIFA’s own player of the year award, is bestowed annually by France Football magazine. Modric won the 2018 FIFA men’s award last month, while the women’s award went to Brazil forward Marta, another Women’s Ballon d’Or award nominee.
Nominees: Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Alisson Becker (Liverpool), Gareth Bale (Real Madrid), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Edinson Cavani (Paris St Germain), Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid), Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Isco (Real Madrid), Harry Kane (Tottenham), N’Golo Kante (Chelsea), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Mario Mandzukic (Juventus), Sadio Mane (Liverpool), Marcelo (Real Madrid), Kylian Mbappe (Paris St Germain), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Neymar (Paris St Germain), Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid), Paul Pogba (Manchester United), Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Mohamed Salah (Liverpool), Luis Suarez (Barcelona), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid).
With the international break under way, this past weekend provided a final chance for players to shine at club level before heading away to represent their country, and several names certainly took their opportunity.
From Kylian Mbappe’s incredible four-goal haul inside 13 minutes, to Aymeric Laporte’s composed display at the back for Manchester City in their 0-0 draw at Anfield, there were a number of standout performances across Europe.
Here we take a look at our latest European Team of the Week…
GK: Gianluigi Buffon (PSG)
In competition with Alphonse Areola for a starting spot in the PSG side, Buffon showcased just what he can do in the 5-0 victory against Lyon. Called into action on a number of occasions, the 40-year-old was equal to everything PSG’s visitors threw at him, making a total of six saves to preserve his side’s clean sheet. The best of those stops came at 1-0, getting down smartly to keep out Maxwel Cornet’s close-range effort.
RB: Matt Doherty (Wolves)
Having already made a name for himself among Fantasy Premier League players so far this season, Doherty netted his first goal of the campaign and helped keep a clean sheet in Wolves’ 1-0 success at Crystal Palace. Playing at wing-back, Doherty has shown extreme confidence on the ball and awareness defensively, both of which were evident again. In total, Doherty made three tackles, three interceptions and three clearances.
CB: Guillermo Maripan (Alaves)
A stunning result for Deportivo Alaves this weekend, as they beat Real Madrid 1-0. Central defender Maripan played a crucial role in the success, halting Los Blancos every time they ventured forward. The 24-year-old made an impressive five clearances, one interception and three tackles, as well as blocking one shot and winning two aerial duels. With just 30 per cent possession, Alaves’ defence had to be at their best, and Maripan certainly was.
CB: Aymeric Laporte (Man City)
Laporte had a torrid time at Anfield last season playing at left-back in the Champions League, but back in his favoured position he flourished on Sunday. The 24-year-old was superb alongside John Stones at the back for Pep Guardiola’s men, keeping Liverpool, and in particular, Mohamed Salah, quiet, with an assured display. Laporte made six clearances, three interceptions and one tackle in the goalless draw.
LB: Alex Sandro (Juventus)
Both of Juventus’ full-backs were excellent in their success against Udinese, with Joao Cancelo and Sandro playing a key role in maintaining their side’s perfect start to the season. While Cancelo offered plenty going forward, Sandro gave a more complete performance, making a game-high of six tackles and four interceptions, while also providing an attacking threat down the left for Max Allegri’s side.
RM: Suso (AC Milan)
A fine display from Suso, who provided a hat-trick of assists in AC Milan’s 3-1 home win against Chievo. The Spaniard’s first was a smart ball back across the box for Gonzalo Higuain to fire home, before an exquisite ball through the Chievo defence allowed the Argentine to grab a second. The 24-year-old also provided the pass for Giacomo Bonaventura to make it 3-0. Suso finished with an impressive eight key passes off 102 touches.
CM: Marcel Sabitzer (RB Leipzig)
RB Leipzig’s hammering of Nurnberg was just as impressive as the midfield display from Sabitzer, who bossed proceedings in the 6-0 victory. The 24-year-old was at the heart of everything for Leipzig, scoring twice, including an fine long-range finish for his second of the game, while he also excelled on the ball, playing two key passes. He also did his job defensively, making one clearance and four interceptions to win back possession.
CM: Lucas Castro (Cagliari)
Castro was instrumental in helping Cagliari to a 2-0 victory against Bologna, providing the assists for both of his side’s goals. Two perfectly timed crosses were met by Joao Pedro and then Leonardo Pavoletti, as Castro caused constant problems for the Bologna defence. The 29-year-old made five key passes in total, and completed three dribbles, while also doing his fair share defensively, making three clearances and blocking one shot in the win.
LM: Jonathan Bamba (Lille)
Bamba and Lille continued their remarkable start to the Ligue 1 season with a 3-1 win against Saint-Etienne, in which the winger scored his sixth and seventh goals of the league campaign. Both of the 22-year-old’s strikes were expertly taken, as he bent the ball into the far corner, first from 20 yards, before repeating the feat in the second half from just inside the penalty area. Bamba’s pace and direct style caused constant problems for Saint-Etienne.
CAM: Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Hazard’s form this season has been imperious, and he was once again at his very best as he helped Chelsea seal a 3-0 win at Southampton. While Jorginho directs and dictates from deep, Hazard is at the heart of everything positive for Maurizio Sarri’s side going forward. The Belgian took his goal superbly to open the scoring, and continued to be a constant menace for the Saints defence, before setting up Alvaro Morata late on.
ST: Kylian Mbappe (PSG)
Moved into a central position after Presnel Kimpembe’s red card and Edinson Cavani’s withdrawal, Mbappe lit up the Parc des Princes with a stunning four-goal haul inside 13 second-half minutes. The World Cup winner could well have had more, but he took each of his four goals superbly well to help PSG to a 5-0 success against last season’s runners-up in Ligue 1, Lyon. He’s now got 10 in all competitions this season.