Thursday, June 11, 2009

C-Ron to Real: The Implications at both ends

As one would expect, the C-Ron transfer shenanigan is consuming all other soccer news in its path, devouring smaller stories as ferociously as Janice Dickinson sucks up lines of cocaine from her kitchen table. Yes, it's finally over. A team has sold a player to another team, and we must sit back to avoid overdosing on the hyperbole. But we cannot!

Given that C-Ron is not your average player changing hands in a summer transfer (sorry, Gareth Barry; did you notice less journo flacks at your first Citeh press conference this morning?), there's an obvious and massive knock-on effect for both sides of this nifty slice of business.

For United and Real Madrid, things are about to change dramatically. Precious Roy already took a wonderful look at it from the money side, and now I fancy examining the consequences on the pitch.

Manchester United: the band loses its egotistical lead singer
For the Reds, the immediate future is obvious; they're losing an incredible amount of goals from a wide position. 91 in three seasons from their best offensive producer, their free-kick genius, and their versatile winger who also thrived in a center-forward role that Ferguson tried towards the end of the season.

The void is massive, and the wishlist of suitors who are capable, willing and able to fill the role (not without a massive favor from any of Europe's great domestic clubs who might be content to sit on their stockpiled stars) isn't very big at all. After all, who would dare be the team to immediately improve a franchise that sorely needs the help up front? Not to mention that every player they covet (Ribery, Villa, Aguero) has countless other suitors.

Simply put, C-Ron is as close as it gets to irreplaceable these days. While the Era of the Individual, that hazy, highlight-packed period that really kicked off in the late 90s, is still present, the team dynamic and proliferation of tactically-astute managers has lessened its impact.

In spite of the shift, C-Ron is/was one of those precious few who could lift his team out of the doldrums created by negative gameplans, and without him, United look a lot more one-dimensional. They will struggle to pull through some matches without Ronaldo's ability to provide spark, something he did just as much on the field as he did off.

Consider that Man U scored just 68 goals in the EPL this past season. It's still a proud figure, but it's the lowest tally to spur an EPL trophy march since 1992/93.

And so, who will provide the goals? Wayne Rooney is a great player, but he is not industrious enough to play provider and scorer all for himself (one of C-Ron's many talents included taking enough pressure away from his batterymates).

Carlos Tevez? His workrate and effort eclipse that of most in United's squad, and yet his natural style of play has been stifling to that of Rooney, considering the two are so similar. Oh, and this is without mentioning that Tevez is a dead cert to leave Old Trafford, having been relegated unfairly to the second or third string.

Dimitar Berbatov? Perhaps one of the EPL's laziest players, so unflinching in his sloth that those sublime moments of individual skill are, when he can be bothered, that much more breathtaking. However, through analytical eyes, it's clear he is not providing an adequate return on the investment.

Danny Welbeck? Federico Macheda? Woefully unseasoned for a full season of title-chasing strain and stress, despite the Hollywood-esque entrance made by the young Italian.

With this loss, United will need to show their defensive strength more than ever, as it might be the biggest weapon they still possess. When you consider that C-Ron is arguably the best player in the world operating today, there can be no sufficient replacement. Ferguson has done this sort of thing in the past, selling big-name stars to the surprise of many (Andrei Kanchelskis, Ruud van Nistelrooy, David Beckham), but none of them have had the singular importance to the team -- all preening, sulk and arrogance aside -- as Cristiano Ronaldo does.

United fans should console themselves with the assertion that his poisonous ego was detrimental to the Red Army's movement, although when the well of goals runs dry, that will not be a very comforting mantra. For all his petulance, it's hard to argue that Ronaldo didn't get the job done when asked.

Real Madrid: Florentino Perez isn't a fan of Moneyball
However you choose to look at it, this is good business for Real Madrid. It helps to re-establish their credibility once more as a domestic and European force, it aids the rebuilding process of their worldwide brand (it had been six or so years between Galacticos cycles), and it reinvigorates a league that could really use a legitimate dramatic counterpoint to the homegrown, grassroots might of Barcelona.

Florentino Perez has achieved all of this with just two signatures -- 2007's World Player of the Year, Kaka, and now 2008's World Player of the Year, Cristiano Ronaldo.

We know from the last galacticos incarnation (think Sealab 2020, but more attractive) that it can work -- they won two league titles in three years before their dismantling -- but this time around, they must address their woes at the back, as well as figuring out just how all the jigsaw pieces will fit together.

Having tons of offensive firepower and might doesn't automatically crown you King of the World. Brazil 1982 was full of stepover kings and electrifying strikers, and yet all it took was a well-drilled, hungry Italy to topple them because of their frailty at the back. It happens all the time, in that respect; the rush for superstars is so heady and intense, like a heroin addict fiending for the needle, that the unglamorous behind-the-scenes fortification is neglected.

Their backline was shown to be paper-thin in the Champions League, and will be again unless changes are made. Iker Casillas is only 28, but his workload between the posts must make him feel twice as old. There's Sergio Ramos, a right-back who rarely bothers to defend. Heinze and Salgado are both approaching being put out to pasture, Marcelo is inconsistent and prone to being caught too far forward, and then Pepe has shown his fondness for violence when frustrated and flustered at the back.

It's an awful platform for which to help Kaka, Ronaldo and company do what they need to do moving forward; one wonders just what money they will spend on the blue collar improvements they will sorely need.

And then there's the tactical question; just how do you make everyone work together? Looking at their squad, they're logjammed at every position, and it'll take some masterful work by whoever steps through the revolving managerial door to keep everyone happy for more than a season and a half.

Good business, to be sure, but an acquisition that brings with it a parade of questions and quibbles that need to be addressed. After all, Ronaldo's desire to move wasn't just for the improvement in weather. He craves the success that he enjoyed at United, and then some.


Steve said...

great post LB. next up for Madrid merry-go-round is Pellegrini remember.

EbullientFatalist said...

LB: between you and PR, the coverage of the transfer is just as insightful as anything I've read on soccernet or other blogs. ANDANDAND only one dick joke.

The Fan's Attic said...

ha...didn't even notice the advert behind CRon the first time around.

As an LFC fan...I'll gladly take Van der Vaart off of Madrid's hands for a reduced rate.

Mike Georger said...

Been reading a lot of MUFC (what a shit acronym) fans today talking about how they're glad because they can 'build around Rooney.'

Yeah I was delusional when we sold off Owen, and had the same kind of bs lined up if Stevie walked out that door.

You can be pissed about this. Your team just sold your best player and you aren't getting any younger, be angry, try and have a soul you fucking automatons.

phil said...

UF is killing everyone else on this transfer. Good stuff.

Perez better buy at the back, too, or RM may find themselves on the wrong of a lot of 5-4 matches.

jjf3 said...

nice job LB. And Congrats! on the kiddo!

Casillas is going to age in dog-years if they don't reinforce the back line. Ramos is acting like a homeless man's cross between Alves and CR7, Pepe and Heinze might be their starting CBs next season, and Perez doesn't even recognize that defenders exist. Next season's "Clasicos" should be awesome to watch as entertainment, if not good football...

jjf3 said...

Oh, and that photo is awesome. I'd love to see that every time his name makes the front page for a year or two...