x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Goals aplenty from Ronaldo but no trophies for Madrid

Mourinho is full of praise for his top scorer who has kept Madrid in the hunt for Spanish league title; that and other leagues around the world.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored 48 goals in 2010 to underline an excellent 12 months for the Portuguese player.
Cristiano Ronaldo scored 48 goals in 2010 to underline an excellent 12 months for the Portuguese player.

Cristiano Ronaldo's year drew to a close on a rainy training pitch in north west Madrid yesterday.

More than 5,000 fans took advantage of an open training session to see their heroes prepare for Monday's Primera Liga game at Getafe in Madrid's less salubrious south side.

A journalist wandered among the crowd asking the young fans who was their favourite player.

"Cristiano" was the most popular choice followed by "Iker" - or "Saint Iker" as he is also known in most of Spain.

Both were peerless in 2010, yet while Casillas finished the year with a World Cup winners' medal, Ronaldo ended it trophyless, the first year that he has not been in a side which has won a major honour since 2005.

That should not be taken as a slight against the Portuguese who remained on top form for the past 12 months. Ronaldo was not only Real's leading goalscorer, but played more games for Los Blancos than any other player.

Even a bout of tonsillitis could not stop the No 7 missing his first competitive match of the season in last week's 8-0 Spanish Cup thrashing of Levante, in which he scored a hat-trick.

Rather than viewing the cup as a secondary competition as his predecessors have in the past, Jose Mourinho sees it a trophy worth winning.

Ronaldo scored 48 goals in 45 games in 2010, 36 of them in the league, five in the Champions League, four in the cup and three for Portugal.

It might have been more for his country had they not been such a disappointment in South Africa, but that was then.

"Cristiano can have the best season in history," Mourinho said this week.

"He is a spectacular youngster, a great boy. I don't have the words to describe his quality and professional ambition. Cristiano is a bit like me as a coach, dedicated and not interested in the politics. He's just obsessed by the football. He is himself, he does not pretend. For me it's a pleasure to work with him every day."

Ronaldo's greatest problem is Barcelona and Lionel Messi.

Ronaldo was sullen, ineffective and frustrated in November's 5-0 defeat at Camp Nou, which not only took Barca back to the top of the Primera Liga but makes then favourites to retain the league for a third successive season.

Madrid will keep winning games and Ronaldo will keep scoring, but trophies are expected, be they in the league, Champions League or, as a last resort, the Spanish Cup.

The 80,000 fans who fill the Bernabeu each week can be demanding and feckless in equal measure, but they have embraced Ronaldo. He is settled in Madrid and not regretting moving from Manchester United.

Short-term, Ronaldo will have to adjust to life in the Madrid team without Gonzalo Higuain, his injured foil.

The return of Kaka from long-term injury could see Ronaldo moved to the wing, with the Brazilian in the more central forward role usually occupied by Ronaldo behind Karim Benzema.

With Kaka on top form, Real could be realistic contenders to succeed in the Champions League where they have failed to go beyond the last 16 in each of the past six years.

Mourinho has appeared unconvinced by Benzema and has made no secret of his desire to bring a No 9 to Madrid.

If he is not impressed by the French striker, he could opt to play Ronaldo as the central attacking force, a role he occasionally performed for United. Ronaldo will be fervently wishing his current team can repeat United's trophy-winning successes.

sports@thenational.ae

ITALY: Leonardo is happy

Leonardo will begin life as the coach of Inter Milan on Thursday when high-flying Napoli are the visitors to the San Siro, and the Brazilian is confident he is the man to lift the club’s spirits.

Inter have struggled in Serie A this season. They are down in seventh place, 13 points behind the league leaders AC Milan, but with two games in hand.

Leonardo, a former Milan coach, replaces Rafa Benitez, who was dismissed last month, and he is convinced the good times are just around the corner for the league champions. He said: “I arrive in the most important year of the history of this club and I am very happy and motivated. Winning helps with enthusiasm, this is a made team with its own identity and I have to put the players in the right condition.”

GERMANY: Butt plans his exit

Hans-Jorg Butt, the Bayern Munich goalkeeper, has announced he will retire from the game at the end of the season should his club sign Manuel Neuer from Schalke. The 36-year-old’s contract expires at the end of June and he has made it clear that he will not sign a new deal if he is only going to be the second choice.

“If Manuel comes, then he will play, and then I will retire at the highest level and look forward to doing something new and interesting,” he told Bild newspaper. Bayern are still believed to be keen on signing the Germany No 1, who has a contract until 2012 with Schalke.

Irrespective of whether the Neuer deal goes through, Butt acknowledges that his plans for retirement are already quite advanced. “I have had a great career up to now,” he said. “I don’t feel any pressure that somebody will take my place sooner or later. I have always been interested in doing other things away from the football field.

“I am currently doing a distance training course in business studies and economics and I am close to graduating with a BA.

“I think that some people are not fully prepared for retirement and they are badly prepared for what comes afterwards. If you don’t have a plan, then you start to panic.”

FRANCE:Garcia's joy at 2010

They may have been the surprise package of the opening half of the season in Ligue 1, but Lille are confident they have what it takes to stay on top for the remainder of the campaign. They have not won the league since 1954, but an attacking style which has seen them score 33 goals has put them top by a point with a game in hand at the season’s halfway point.

While the likes of Lyon and Marseille have misfired, Lille have not disappointed and Rudi Garcia, their coach, said: “I do not know if we are leaders by default.  “The big teams do not have enough points and we are only one point ahead ... But I would like to remember the fact that we are on top, and that we have had a wonderful first half of the season, and even our whole year 2010. It has really been very positive.”

As to whether Lille can go the distance, Yohan Cabaye, the midfielder, said the team were simply going to do their best, now they are the hunted rather than the hunters. “The second half of the season is going to be just as complicated,” Cabaye said.

“There are six months left. If we are still in the race in the final stages, of course we will be going for the title.”

HOLLAND: Malaga trip for PSV

He may now be a Barcelona player after completing his move last week, but Ibrahim Afellay says he will always have a bond with PSV Eindhoven.

The 24 year old completed his move to Spain last week in a deal reported to be worth €3 million (Dh14.7m), but said he owes his success to the club he had been at since the age of 10, and had planned his departure to ensure his former employers were properly compensated. He told PSV’s club website: “PSV are in my heart and they will be in heart for ever.

“I rose though the ranks at PSV and spent 14 seasons in Eindhoven.

“I owe so much to PSV. My contract with PSV was due to expire at the end of the season. I’m happy I have made a move to Barcelona in December, so that PSV will get a transfer fee.”

With the teams not back in action until January 22, Eindhoven, who lead the Eredivisie table by four points, have time to plan for life without Afellay. They have a friendly scheduled for Wednesday against First Division side Telstar, before they travel to Spain on January 10 for a training camp in Malaga.

There they will play two friendlies against Segunda Division side FC Cartagena on January 13 and Anderlecht of Belgium on January 14.

ELSEWHERE: Ljungberg considered

Neil Lennon admits he is hugely tempted to start Freddie Ljungberg in Scotland’s Old Firm game at Ibrox tomorrow, but revealed Olivier Kapo and Daryl Murphy are out.

The former Arsenal player, 33, completed his move to Glasgow Celtic yesterday and will be eligible for the game against city rivals Rangers once international clearance comes through.  Lennon said: “My only concern is that Freddie hasn’t played a lot of football. Since October, he hasn’t played any. I don’t want to bring him in and then he breaks down because he has that lack of football or training.

“I will talk to the medical staff and Freddie over the next couple of days. There is a huge temptation because he is a quality player. Kapo tweaked a hamstring, it could be two or three weeks, and Daryl is a strange one. At first, it looked like an Achilles but it could be a lower calf strain. Barring those two, everyone else in the squad will be involved.”

Mexico
Nelson Sambueza, the Estudiantes striker, has been given a five-match ban after he tried to assault a referee during a pre-season quadrangular tournament. During a game on Tuesday between Estudiantes and Atlas, Sambueza tried to butt Rafael Roman Medina, the match official. The Mexican football federation made its ruling on the basis of video footage.

Hungary
Zdenek Scasny has signed a two-year contract as the new coach of Debrecen, the reigning Hungarian champions. The 53-year-old Czech, who won four international caps as a defender in 1983/84, takes over from Hungarian Andras Herczeg with Debrecen sitting in fifth in the league, eight points behind leaders Videoton Szekesfehervar. He has coached Sparta Prague and Panathinaikos during his career.