Amid their superb run of form, Real Madrid have received further good news with Cristiano Ronaldo’s agent Jorge Mendes pouring cold water on the idea that his star client may return to Manchester United. Despite having only signed a lucrative new five-year contract last September, Ronaldo has repeatedly been linked with a transfer back to the club he left in a then-record deal in 2009. The 29-year-old has never hidden his affection for the Premier League club, yet Mendes insisted his heart now rests with Real Madrid.
“He still retains a special feeling for United as he spent six years there,” Mendes told Spanish publication AS. “Now he only has feelings for Real Madrid and wants to stay here forever, he’s extremely happy. One thing he has is respect for those people who remember him but his interest is with Madrid. I don’t get offers as people know that it’s impossible to take Cristiano away from Real Madrid, so it’s not even worth making the enquiry.”
Mendes added that Ronaldo’s dream is to win another Champions League title with Los Blancos. Right now that objective seems eminently achievable this season. Having finally got the monkey of their back by lifting an unprecedented 10th European Cup in May, Real Madrid endured a worrying start to this campaign following a summer of significant personnel changes. Indeed, one of the incidents that sparked a new wave of rumors suggesting Ronaldo could be on his way back to Old Trafford was his disagreement with the club’s decision to sell Angel di Maria and Xabi Alonso following the big-money arrivals of World Cup stars James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos.
Two defeats in Real Madrid’s opening three matches La Liga, including a loss to local rivals Atletico Madrid, suggested he had a point. Shorn of two players, who while not attracting the limelight of some of their teammates were crucial to making Carlo Ancelotti’s 4-3-3 system work last season, Madrid looked unbalanced and eminently vulnerable. But since that loss to the side they beat in last year’s Champions League final, Madrid’s undeniably exceptional attacking prowess has taken over.
Madrid have won their last six games and by a combined scoreline of 27-5. Ronaldo has led the scoring rush by putting up numbers that even for his remarkable career are faintly preposterous. His 13 goals in those six matches have included three-hat-tricks. Last summer’s record signing Gareth Bale has started contributing, too, after a slow start to the season and produced two assists in a 5-0 win over Athletic Bilbao last time out. Meanwhile, Kroos has shown his passing acumen and Rodriguez has offered up glimpses of his stylish skills. Like last season, when they tore Bayern Munich apart in the semifinals and eventually did the same to a weary Atletico Madrid in the final, the task of stopping Real Madrid in full flow appears an ominous one.
Certainly progressing from the group stage of the Champions League already appears a formality. Madrid have maximum points from two games and the team expected to give them their closest challenge, Liverpool, which they next meet in back-to-back matches, have already lost at home to Swiss champions Basel. A top place finish appears eminently securable, and thus they should avoid a meeting with one of Europe’s giants in the Round of 16.
A slow start means Real Madrid’s position in La Liga is not as strong. Ancelotti’s men currently lie in fourth, four points behind leaders Barcelona. It means they will certainly be trailing their great rivals, regardless of what result they produce at Levante next week, when the two sides meet at the Bernabeu on Oct. 25.
Even at this early stage of the season, it appears a match that could have a major impact on the destination of the Spanish title, which Madrid are trying to claim for the first time since 2012. Valencia and Sevilla have made hugely impressive starts to the season to sit second and third after seven games, but it remains difficult to envisage them having the strength in depth and consistency to maintain such results after a 38-game campaign. Atletico, currently in fifth, of course surprised almost everyone by maintaining their challenge last season and interrupting the duopoly of Barcelona and Real Madrid. But, having been forced into an overhaul of their squad over the summer, doing so again would be an even greater achievement.
Madrid will be desperate not to fall further behind Barcelona, with few points likely to be dropped at the top. The result and a performance in that hotly anticipated contest, in which Luis Suarez will be available for the first time for Barcelona, could also say much about Madrid’s hopes for the season as a whole.
While they have blown away lesser opposition, it remains to be seen whether Real Madrid can get the balance right between attack and defense against sides capable of taking the game to them. Both Di Maria and Alonso were key in balancing out a team that was also found out as being top-heavy in the early stages of last season. You can argue about whether Kroos and Rodriguez are better players, but it is indisputable that they are different types of players. Rodriguez doesn’t have the same dynamism up and down the left side of midfield to connect the two areas of the side, while Kroos is not as natural a screener of the back four as the veteran Alonso. Ancelotti, who has almost made a career out of trying to produce some sort of coherent team out of a group of star players rather than getting payers to fit his philosophy, will have to replicate that pattern if Madrid are to match or even better last season’s success.