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What makes Cristiano Ronaldo's personal nightmare even more painful for him is the fact that this is what he fought for.
Ronaldo wrangled and campaigned and politicked to get the move he craved: his world-record $131 million transfer from Manchester United to Real Madrid last summer. Madrid fought for it just as hard, allowing the price to be driven up – past record-breaking, past realistic, past mind-boggling – to a stratospheric figure.
Greed ruled this transaction, one which, less than a year later, has turned out to be a dramatic disappointment for all concerned.
Ronaldo needed to be a Galactico because he wanted to feel his worth. He hungered to follow in the footsteps of the other greats who have graced the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. Madrid wanted to flex its muscles and land its crown jewel, feeling a compulsion to own the player then considered the world's finest.
And United allowed itself to be talked into the idea of selling its most effective star, convincing itself that the vast sums of money being offered could soften the blow of life without Ronaldo and that other players could fill the gap.
Last weekend brought into stark focus just how futile Ronaldo's big move has proven to be, at least compared to what it was supposed to bring.
Saturday saw the collapse of Madrid's season, as a home defeat to hated rival Barcelona all but ended the team's hopes of winning the La Liga title. With the Champions League already a fading memory, the El Clasico loss signaled the evaporation of Madrid's last opportunity for major silverware barring a dip in Barca's magnificent form.
For Ronaldo, the 2-0 defeat was a reminder, as if one was needed, that he is not even close to being the best player on the planet. Barcelona's Lionel Messi was everything Ronaldo was not, mixing sublime trickery with tangible end product, and with Gerard Pique (a former United player) holding Ronaldo in check, Madrid could find no answer to Messi, who capped off a brilliant performance with the decisive goal.
Ronaldo has simply not fit into the Madrid system as well as it was hoped, and there have been many times when it has looked like a more balanced system not including him would be more effective. Soon, head coach Manuel Pellegrini will pay for both the absence of cohesion and the lack of trophies with his job.
A day later, the cracks in the United facade were also laid bare. A 0-0 draw at Blackburn allowed Chelsea breathing room at the top of the English Premier League and, with Wayne Rooney injured, a third-place finish behind Arsenal is quite possible for United, which never adequately replaced Ronaldo as many of the millions from his sale seemingly were stashed in the bank or used to pay debts.
An empty trophy cabinet will likely be the price United pays for selling, at the time, the world's best player. Madrid, however, did not buy the world's best player.
It made the most expensive mistake in soccer history.
Weekend Best XI
1. Get him an Advil
These are nervous times for Jose Mourinho after Inter Milan's six-month stint at the top of Serie A ended Sunday, when it was overtaken by Roma. Mourinho could still end the season with glory in both the Champions League and Serie A, but he could also end up with nothing.
Roma's revival has been spectacular, with Claudio Ranieri's men having won five straight and not losing in league play since October. The momentum is with them and a first championship in nine years could beckon.
2. Get him a beer
Portsmouth has endured a season of constant upheaval with its financial hardship and relegation from the Premier League. However, Sunday's dramatic victory over Tottenham in the FA Cup semifinal was fully deserved and provided a much-needed boost for the club's beleaguered staff and fans.
No one appreciated the victory more than manager Avram Grant, who has conducted himself with dignity and pride in the face of adversity. (This week, Grant will make an emotional pilgrimage to commemorate victims of the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz.)
3. Get him some earplugs
John Terry just can't seem to escape controversy this season after being under fire again for a scathing tackle on James Milner during Chelsea's FA Cup semifinal victory over Aston Villa. Villa boss Martin O'Neill launched a verbal attack on Terry and claimed Milner was "exceptionally lucky to have his career intact."
4. Keep an eye on …
Jozy Altidore. Most American fans thought Altidore's move to Hull City could only help his career and that may still prove to be the case. But despite learning some valuable lessons in the world's toughest league, Altidore looks to have had his confidence shaken by being part of an awful Hull side. Against Burnley on Saturday, he set up Hull's first goal but he missed two straightforward chances in a humiliating 4-1 home defeat.
5. Catch a flight to …
London. The next week could have dramatic repercussions in the EPL, with a local derby between Tottenham and Arsenal on Wednesday that neither side can afford to lose. Spurs are chasing the fourth Champions League spot, while the Gunners have not given up hopes of winning the title.
6. Useless and completely made-up statistics of the week
50 – The number of goals Edson Buddle will end up with this season if he continues his run of form for the red-hot Los Angeles Galaxy. Buddle's double in a 2-0 road win over the Houston Dynamo on Saturday took his haul to five in three games to match his tally from last season.
7. Fond farewell
It will soon be time to say goodbye to Tom Hicks and George Gillett, Liverpool's American owners. Hicks and Gillett are facing a demand to pay $153 million of debts, prompting them to appoint the Barclays Capital Group to arrange the sale of the club.
8. Get ready to say hello to …
Jeremiah White. The former Wake Forest star is currently playing on a lucrative contract for Al-Ettifaq in Saudi Arabia, but several MLS clubs are hoping to lure him back to the United States next season.
9. Get ready to say goodbye to …
Jim Brennan. The veteran Canadian defender called time on his playing career with Toronto FC last week in order to become the club's assistant general manager. Brennan spent more than a decade playing in the English league and continues to be a fine ambassador for soccer.
10. Get excited about …
"Looking for Eric," a superb soccer-related movie featuring Manchester United legend Eric Cantona. No soccer fan should miss this film, which will be released in select American theaters on May 21.
11. Why it's good to be a soccer player
Take a look at Daniela Fontani, Miss Italy contestant and girlfriend of Fiorentina's Alessandro Gamberini.
- Cristiano Ronaldo
- Manchester United
- Real Madrid