With a 6-1 aggregate lead from the UEFA Champions League first leg against Schalke, Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti risked star forward Cristiano Ronaldo for the full 90 minutes in last night’s second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu. Ronaldo scored two more goals against the Bundesliga side, but the injury to fellow teammate Jese showed the risk that Los Blancos took just five days before el Clasico.
The serious injury suffered by Jese Rodriguez has certainly made headlines in the soccer world, questioning why the Portuguese superstar was playing in the first place. With the 21-year-old Jese in the forefront of most people’s mind amidst reports spreading that he has damaged cruciate ligaments in his right knee, the 3-1 second leg victory became irrelevant in the wider context.
Accidents can happen at any time, and despite having a five goal buffer, Ancelotti’s decision to play Ronaldo for the full 90 minutes could easily have seen Madrid suffer an even bigger loss. Five days before an el Clasico encounter against Barcelona, it also brought into question the real motivation for the coach and the star player.
Ronaldo has scored 13 goals in the UEFA Champions League so far this season after his brace against Schalke on Wednesday, which places him just one behind the 2011-12 record set by his rival Lionel Messi. Plus, Ronaldo is now in fourth place for the most goals scored by a Real Madrid footballer, level with Ferenc Puskas. On his current form, Ronaldo looks unstoppable as he aims to become a record breaker.
But had it been Ronaldo on the end of Sead Kolasinac’s second minute challenge rather than Jese, then Madrid’s season could had suddenly been tumbled and thrown into turmoil, and Ronaldo’s inexorable run of goalscoring form could have come to an end by the injury.
To protect the star investment that will be expected to line up against Barcelona on Sunday, Jese was brought in alongside the likes of Fabio Coentrao, Nacho, Isco and Illarramendi. Yet their biggest asset, the one man army whose presence on Sunday and beyond will infinitely give Madrid the greater chance of a perfect treble, played the full 90 minutes.
Losing Jese is undoubtedly a giant blow to the Spanish club as the club look to continue his development into a world class footballer, but losing Ronaldo would have had far more greater connotations over the remainder of the season.
From the club’s point of view, risking the Ballon d’Or winner in a dead rubber game made no sense, and Carlo Ancelotti knew the fact as the likes of Pepe, Lucas Modric, Angel di Maria and Gareth Bale were missing in the starting XI. But it looks that Ronaldo’s quest for history and personal glory is seemingly far bigger than the club.
Similar stories have already made huge headlines when the Colombian national and AS Monaco player Radamel Falcao suffered a serious injury during a French cup game against a lower league team, and is now struggling in a race against time to prove his fitness to play in the upcoming World Cup.
What if the same had happened to Ronaldo, dashing Portugal’s World Cup chances and presumably ending Real Madrid’s best chances of winning silverware this season? Ancelotti dodged a bullet, but Jese got injured in the crossfire.
Programming note: For viewers in the United States, La Liga games (including this Sunday’s el Clasico) are shown exclusively on beIN SPORT, beIN SPORT Espanol and DishWorld. Even if you don’t have a TV subscription to beIN SPORT, you can access those channels via online streaming service DishWorld for $10/month. Read our review of DishWorld. And sign up for DishWorld via their website.