A new era has begun for Real Madrid, who is now playing without long-tenured star Cristiano Ronaldo. After having Ronaldo as the face of the club for so many years, nobody knew how the team would respond when the new season began. Concerns only mounted after Real fell to inner city rival Atletico Madrid in the Super Cup by a score of 4-2.
What Real needed most was to put together a strong performance in order to get past the negativity that had begun to gain steam. The good news is they accomplished the task, by defeating the far inferior Getafe 2-0, and in the process displaying a dominant lineup that can help the team move forward from the tumultuous offseason surrounding Ronaldo’s departure.
Taking a look at the positives from the victory, perhaps most impressive was the team’s dominant time of possession, which stood at 78 percent for the entire match. It was the highest percentage of ball control the club had since a 2012 matchup with Levante, when they had an 80 percent time of possession. While much of the reason for that could be attributed to the far inferior competition, they have encountered such teams throughout the past five years and had not achieved such domination.
Moreover, Real’s agenda of playing superior defense was also on full display. They only permitted one shot on goal throughout the game, which is a testament to both the strategy employed by new manager Julen Lopetegui, as well as the top notch execution of the team’s defenders. Obviously, the competition will be much stiffer in the near future, and the team had not been nearly as stingy against Atletico just last week, but it is a step in the right direction in many ways.
Every top team that wants to compete for the La Liga title, and eventually be a contender for the Champions League, needs to have star players who can put the team on their backs. In the absence of Ronaldo, it appears that Gareth Bale could be the player to take on that role. Bale picked up where he left off in last season’s Champions League Final, as he was responsible for an assist and scored a goal of his own on Sunday.
Bale could become the face of Real Madrid as the club moves forward. He has relished the opportunity to take his game to the next level and has not shied away from the spotlight in any way. The Welsh player is certainly one to watch this year, and hopefully he is able to continue his strong play as the season progresses.
It is important to mention that Real played in front of the smallest crowd since before Ronaldo arrived in Madrid. Only 48,466 fans were in attendance at the Bernabeu, which is the lowest number since May of 2009. Real Madrid might have underestimated the Ronaldo effect, which goes beyond just his on-field contributions. In contrast, Juventus recognized the marketing value that Ronaldo brings to the table, and they will instead benefit from that for as long as the Portuguese superstar is a member of the team.
But not all is lost in Madrid either. In addition to Bale, the team has some rising stars that could become a force in the near future, including Marco Asensio, Nacho, and Dani Ceballos, all of which have big opportunities ahead of them. It will certainly be an interesting season for Real and football fans.