Cristiano Ronaldo is in damage control mode.
This past weekend, Real Madrid came up short in one of their biggest dates on the calendar, falling 1-0 to Atlético Madrid. In addition to the humiliation of a derby loss, the result put Real a full 12 points behind league leaders Barcelona, a gap that will be nearly impossible to overcome at this stage of the season.
The most obvious reason to point to for Real’s loss was the rash of injuries to key players, including Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, the latter having been substituted at halftime due to a leg injury that could keep him out of the team for a month.
After the game, Ronaldo was approached by reporters and asked about the current state of the team. His comments made sure that the game wouldn’t be the thing people would be talking about.
A generous reading of that comment would say that Ronaldo was talking more about chemistry and rapport, something which he had with the regular members of the forward line (Bale and Benzema) and not with the understudies called into action. A less generous reading would say that Ronaldo thinks he’s better than his teammates. That wouldn’t necessarily be out of character for CR7, but it’s still not a great look.
In the immediate aftermath, Sergio Ramos tried to dispel some of the controversy by defending Ronaldo and saying his comments were being blown out of proportion.
Regardless, the story refused to die down and Ronaldo finally had to address it. He reportedly got in touch with teammates via WhatsApp to apologize directly for his comments. He then gave an interview to El Mundo to apologize further and clarify his intentions.
For his part, manager Zinedine Zidane considers the matter closed.
Real Madrid don’t have a lot of time to heal and reconcile. They’re back in action tomorrow away at Levante, at home to Celta Vigo on Saturday, and then a decisive Champions League match against Roma in a week. For the team’s sake, Zidane is surely hoping the egos of his understudy players aren’t at Ronaldo’s level.