The former Liverpool manager's first days in his new job have not begun well, says Tim Stannard...
After centuries of observing Real Madrid, La Liga Loca has decided the best possible boss for the Bernabéu club would be Furian man-god Riddick: unemotional, intimidating and possessing the ability to remove the life-force of a journalist before the words “Sergio Ramos” can be fully vocalised. Instead, it is Rafa Benítez in charge these days, the complete universal opposite to the Vin Diesel creation. And Rafa the Gaffer would have enjoyed the power of instant destruction as he faced his first media-fuelled crisis involving Cristiano's general mood. There are likely to be 27 more this season.
The kerfuffle kicked off when AS published footage from a Real Madrid training session in Melbourne which showed Cristiano Ronaldo getting a little hot under the collar about a goal disallowed by the manager who was acting as referee. “Go to hell! Only the fouls by the Portuguese are seen,” was the complaint from the feisty forward. Ronaldo also reportedly got a little peeved when forced to take part in a game of crossbar challenge, noting that the general idea was to get the ball under it rather than on it.
Of course this training ground tiff was the topic of conversation the next day, with Benítez forced to pour cold water over the embers of a crisis by reminding the press of the very well known fact that Ronaldo is a tad competitive. If the footballer is going to spit fire at team-mates for failing to pass to him, it is only logical that his ranting and raving takes place on the practice pitch, too.
However, there is about 3.4% of scurrilous gossip mixed into the story, which follows the narrative that Ronaldo was extremely unhappy to see Carlo Ancelotti being sacked and is not a member of Team Benítez. Indeed, the footballer tweeted his support for the Italian at the end of last season - a medium normally used for selling pants and muscle-contractors - and was going to have the hump, no matter who is in charge.
If the footballer is going to spit fire at team-mates for failing to pass to him, it is only logical that his ranting and raving takes place on the practice pitch, too
And to be fair, Ronaldo would be entitled to have these big feelings in the same way that Luis Enrique and Leo Messi may not see eye-to-eye. If a footballer is going to be asked to add 50 goals to the cause each season, he should be comfortable with the boss. The Barcelona pair clearly found a way to get along, now the Real Madrid duelling duo must do the same.
Actually, the more that LLL gets into this casserole of controversy, the more it is quite tempted to raise the crisis level and predict that this current niggle has major fallout potential between the pair. This detonation might happen a little sooner if Ronaldo does not play in his preferred position on the left, with the Spanish coach currently experimenting with the make-up of the front four and potentially moving Gareth Bale to that flank. It is a move that won’t go down well at all with Ronaldo.
Big oak trees of crisis come from small acorns of niggle. Both Florentino Pérez, who is soon to join the touring party, is going to have to keep a beady eye on the pair unless he wants yet another dressing room feud, having just cleared his hands of the previous one with the sale of Iker Casillas. As Rafa Benítez would have known all too well, nothing is easy at Real Madrid, especially if you don’t happen to be a superhuman maiming machine that puts the fear of god into opponents. Like Diego Simeone.