Real’s new collective focus helping banish Ronaldo shadow

Soccer Football - Champions League Final - Real Madrid v Liverpool - NSC Olympic Stadium, Kiev, Ukraine - May 26, 2018 Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo gestures as he celebrates winning the Champions League with the trophy REUTERS/Hannah McKay

MADRID: As Cristiano Ronaldo huffed and puffed and was made to wait for his maiden goal at new club Juventus on Sunday, his former employers Real Madrid demonstrated life goes on with a scintillating team display away to Girona in La Liga.

The European champions, who have not moved to replace their former number seven in the transfer market, emerged 4-1 victors from their visit to Catalonia and it could have been more.

New coach Julen Lopetegui has been tasked with rebuilding the side following the Portugal forward’s departure and the early signs are good, with Real already looking more of a unit than a collection of individuals.

“I think the key is this year is that we play as a team,” midfielder Casemiro said.

“If we are conscious of the fact and have the mentality to play as a team, we have players to go far and have a great league campaign. Today we’ve shown that we’re a great team.”

The Brazilian’s emphasis on the collective was backed up by his coach: “It’s the team who functions and when they do so, the goals come. The important thing is that the goals come, not who scores them. The team were a real collective,” Lopetegui said.

Naturally, in Ronaldo’s absence, all eyes have been on Gareth Bale and the Welshman has delivered.

His coolly-taken strike on the counter to make it 3-1 was the sixth consecutive La Liga game he has scored in.

His partnership with Karim Benzema is also flourishing, and he set up France forward’s second of the night 10 minutes from the end.

“I’m just here to help the side,” Bale said. “We are a team. We’re a unit and we need to win all the games we can.”

Likewise, youngster Marco Asensio, who has taken Ronaldo’s spot in the team on the left of the front three, is starting to reap the rewards of regular football and the confidence of his coach, winning two penalties at Montilivi.

While the lingering shadow of Ronaldo and a thirst for a ‘galactico’ superstar remains at Real, their new team ethic, for now, looks to have trumped any signing they could have made.