It might be logical to expect Cristiano Ronaldo to play the key role in turning around Real Madrid’s fortunes following their sudden loss of form.
Logical, because Ronaldo has served as Madrid’s symbolic and iconic leader for so long, it can be difficult to imagine anyone else possibly being more important to the team’s fortunes. But that is a false conclusion, for two reasons.
Firstly, Ronaldo’s playing role has significantly changed. Whereas he used to be a box-to-box marauder, advancing age has seen him evolve into an old-fashioned centre-forward who does little work outside the penalty area.
Ronaldo’s unmatched determination to score goals, and his ability to do so, mean that he can still play that part perfectly well and he will surely continue to notch many match-winning strikes for a long time to come.
But it also means he is little more than a peripheral character in Real’s overall play, which brings us to the second reason for Ronaldo’s declining importance: Luka Modric.
With Mesut Ozil and Xabi Alonso already established as regular starters, Modric initially struggled to impose his authority in midfield and often looked lost in the hard-running counter-attacking of thenmanager Jose Mourinho.
But Modric has got better and better with every passing season, and the greater emphasis upon ball retention employed by Zinedine Zidane has allowed him to further blossom, to the extent he is now Real’s key player.
Modric, more than anyone else, is responsible for linking Madrid’s midfield with the attack, receiving the ball from Casemiro or Toni Kroos to probe forward and deliver passes into the forwards or the attacking full-backs, using his wonderful passing range to pick holes in the opposition defence.
On Saturday, with Madrid desperate to get back on track against Malaga, don’t be surprised if he rises to the occasion again.