Why Real Madrid have been below par this season

With El Clásico at the weekend, here are four reasons why Los Blancos are not challenging Barcelona this season.

Meryl D'Souza March 30, 2016

Real Madrid take on Barcelona this Saturday at the Camp Nou. When the teams met earlier in the season, Barcelona blitzed to a 4-0 victory over their bitter rivals. They did that without Messi. 

Yes, that’s how far Real have fallen. As of right now, Madrid are third in the La Liga table with a 10-point gap separating them and leaders Barcelona. Catching their fierce rivals is now way beyond Los Blancos. 

Since many people in the Middle East are obsessed with the two Spanish super clubs, it makes sense to point out how Real Madrid have gone from Barcelona’s rivals to just another top four competitor.  

Pérez’s whims

Since the start of his second term as club president in 2009, Florentino Pérez has spent over half a billion dollars in his quest to usher in a new age of Galácticos. What he has to show for it though is one La Liga title, one Champions League trophy, two Copa del Reys and five managers. 

If anything, the man is Madrid’s cancer. It’s easy to make managers the scapegoat. But people conveniently forget that Pérez has the final say over which players come in and go out. And since he’s the one choosing the managers, he ultimately dictates the style of play and effectively chooses the lineup with the signings he brings in. 

Everyone can obviously see why he strives so hard to accumulate the best talent for ridiculous wads of cash. He’s tried to match and beat Barcelona but has always fallen comprehensively short.

His biggest flaw in the last year or so though was firing Carlo Ancelotti. The Italian found a way to make everything work. The players, the egos, the system; all of it. He even gave them the coveted La Decima (a tenth Champions League crown).

Lack of defensive cover

A key difference between the Decima-winning side and this one is the absence of Xabi Alonso and Angel Di Maria. Di Maria was important but Alonso was the vital cog that made Madrid tick. His role as a deep lying playmaker was similar to the one Sergio Busquets does for Barcelona and what Andrea Pirlo would do for Juventus.

But Perez saw Toni Kross and James Rodriguez as far more profitable options and so he let the Spaniard go. The current trio featuring Isco, Kroos and James is too attack oriented to work in games against bigger teams. Yes they can keep the ball and perform excellent pieces of skill, but none of them dwell in the dark arts of defending. 

No one is at Ronaldo’s level

On February 27 this year, following a 1-0 defeat to Atletico Madrid, an understandably ticked off Ronaldo retorted with, “If they were all at my level we would be first. You always ask me these crappy questions - it seems that here in Spain, I am in the s***.” Said after a journalist brought up his string of below par performances.

That may seem like a donkey praising its own tail but think about it for minute. Yes, Ronaldo was having an off season – which, in normal terms is still far above average – but there was no one to take up the burden.

Ronaldo went on to say that he was talking only about his physical levels and not skill. But let’s be honest, skill-wise Ronaldo is far superior to anyone in that Madrid team.

So let’s just keep it physical. Here is Ronaldo, compared to Gareth Bale – the biggest Galactico after the Portuguese star – in quantifiable numbers.

Notice how Ronaldo is head and shoulders above the man who’s supposed to take over from him? That’s Ronaldo’s level. 

By contrast, look at Barcelona. In the 45 days that Messi was nursing the torn ligament in his left knee (picked up on September 26), Neymar and Suarez shared the Barcelona burden. From being one point behind Madrid at the time of Messi’s injury, the Catalans were three points clear of the Madridistas by the time they faced each other on November 21. Other skills notwithstanding, this is how the Barca trio share the physical burden.

No one is at Ronaldo’s level. Not even Gareth Bale. Which brings us to…

Gareth Bale’s injuries

When he takes to the field, Gareth Bale is not just on song, he’s on album. His skill has never been in doubt but the man is fragile as the image below shows you.

His calf injury in January 2016 came at a time when Bale was having his best run of form in Madrid colours where he scored 13 goals and assisted 11 in 17. Since returning though, the Welshman picked up from where he left off, scoring two of Real’s 15 goals in the last four games.

That should give the Madridistas hope for now, but this is a problem they have to address come the end of the season.