Soccer, regrets edition: Maybe Real Madrid did need Ronaldo?

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We all have decisions we regret. Life moves pretty quickly, and inevitably we wind up questioning the choices we made.

Why did I become a mechanical engineering major? Who thought it was a good idea to hand my little brother the television remote? Why am I still reading this article?

We make mistakes every day.

Real Madrid’s summer actions may, however, take the grand prize.

Let’s rewind to May: Real Madrid had just won its third straight Champions League title, an unprecedented feat in the modern history of the competition, beating Liverpool handily to retain the crown.

The good feeling, however, didn’t even stick around for the postgame interviews.

Rumors had been fluttering around the club.

Former club legend and then-manager Zinedine Zidane was under fire for a domestic season in which Real Madrid had finished in third place, a whopping 17 points behind rivals Barcelona. A Champions League trophy was not enough to put out the flames.

International icon Cristiano Ronaldo was reportedly considering a move abroad, which would leave the club without its most recognizable superstar, not to mention (arguably) the best player on the planet.

Five days after the team’s season ended, Zidane stepped down, starting the wave of change, and later that summer, Real Madrid sold Ronaldo to Italian club Juventus for a hefty sum.

At the moment, there seemed to be reasons for these perplexing strategies enacted by Real Madrid’s board. The team had been through, by Real Madrid’s standards, an awful domestic campaign. Zidane was overplaying lackluster forward Karim Benzema and benching the unparalleled talent that is Gareth Bale. Ronaldo was aging, and his production was slowly dropping; at some point, his all-star ability would fade.

Here’s the thing though — in three years managing Real Madrid’s first team, Zidane won the Champions League, Europe’s most prestigious, glorious and elite competition, every year. He also brought Real Madrid its first La Liga title in five years.

Ronaldo maintained his high production with 26 goals in 27 appearances in La Liga and has consistently been able to revamp his playing style as he ages. There was really no indication that his popularity would wane anytime soon.

Let me put it this way: Any other team in Europe, any other team in the world, would have given anything to be in Real Madrid’s position. It was the best team on the planet.

Now? Real Madrid is struggling.

The team sits in sixth place in La Liga (which is worse than third place, just in case it needed more rubbing in) and recently received a punishing 3-0 loss to lowly Eibar.

To be fair, the club is beginning to turn things around; it fired Zidane’s replacement, Julen Lopetegui, and the team has responded by actually winning games.

Zidane has a championship rate of 100 percent in the Champions League. Ronaldo’s new team, Juventus, is eight points ahead of its nearest rival in the Italian Serie A.

Real Madrid’s leadership has failed to replace Ronaldo’s production, despite adequate financial resources. Rumors that Belgian winger Eden Hazard or famed Brazilian forward Neymar would make their way to the Spanish capital turned out to be unfounded. The club failed to hire a decent coach, and it has failed to perform.

So yeah, maybe Real Madrid did kind of need Ronaldo, and maybe, just maybe, the club should have kept Zidane, as well.

To be fair, I have no inside knowledge of the club. Maybe Ronaldo and Zidane were dead set on leaving, but really, Real Madrid is one of the richest and most famous clubs on the planet — and it couldn’t make something work?

Let’s turn this into a relatively simple lesson: If you’ve won three straight European championships and your team seems pretty good, maybe you should just hold on to what you have and not tear everything down to rebuild.

Real Madrid’s leadership suffered from confused expectations and grew spoiled.

My dear reader, if you’ve managed to actually finish this article, take this away: Don’t let winning spoil you — you will regret it.

Jasper Sundeen writes for Bear Bytes, the Daily Californian’s sports blog. Contact him at [email protected].