Real Madrid have failed to replace Cristiano Ronaldo, admits Luka Modric
Uefa Champions League holders face Ajax in the last-16, second leg on Tuesday aiming to keep alive their last realistic shot at silveware
Croatian midfielder Luka Modric has said Real Madrid have failed to fill the void left by Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of the Uefa Champions League last-16, second leg on Tuesday.
Madrid have endured a turbulent season since Ronaldo ended his nine-year stay at the Bernabeu, during which the Portuguese forward became the club's all-time record goalscorer.
The European champions lost successive matches to arch rivals Barcelona in the past week to end their Copa del Rey hopes and leave their Primera Liga chances hanging by a thread. Third-placed Madrid are now 12 points behind leaders Barca, while city rivals Altetico Madrid occupy second by five points.
Madrid's problems have been highlighted by their struggles in front of goal, having scored just 43 in their 26 games so far. In comparison, Madrid had scored an average of 70 goals at the same stage during Ronaldo's time at the club.
Ronaldo left in July to join Juventus, and Madrid signed young attackers Vinicius Junior and Mariano Diaz but no big-name forward to replace the Portuguese, despite plenty of reports linking the Spanish giants with Paris Saint-Germain striker Kylian Mbappe and Neymar.
“The absence of Cristiano is something every team would feel; to find a replacement for Cristiano is almost impossible,” Ballon d'Or winner Modric, 33, told reporters on Monday.
“Given what he did for us and this club, we miss Cristiano. The club wanted the other players to make up for what he did, divided between the strikers and that is not easy.
“Cristiano scored 50 goals and you can’t find someone today who scores that many. Some of us have to take a step forward and, while not scoring 50, what we need is two or three players who score 15, 20, or 10 goals and we don’t have that.
“That is our biggest problem this year. For example against Barca in the cup we had many chances and when you don’t take advantage your opponent punishes you.
“The club tried, and it seems good, putting faith in other players like Gareth [Bale], [Marco] Asensio, Karim [Benzema]; they brought in Mariano, Vinicius is here.
“[Vinicius] is doing very well for the age he is but sometimes things don’t go how we wanted them to.”
Vinicius has been Madrid's driving force over the past few weeks but the 18-year-old Brazilian has scored only three goals this season.
Club record signing Bale has 13 goals from 33 appearances in all competitions, while top scorer Benzema has netted 20 from 42.
Madrid hold a 2-1 lead over Ajax from the first leg and manager Santiago Solari hopes the team can be more accurate in front of goal as they look to seal their progress to the quarter-finals and maintain their bid for a fourth successive Champions League title.
“Cristiano is living history at the club and all he’s done for the club is shown in the trophy cabinets; we have maximum respect for him,” Solari said.
“Those of us who are here are working the best we can, to attack better, to score more goals, to do our job. It’s true we’ve had a lot of chances in recent games, and we have to finish them.”
Updated: March 5, 2019 08:13 AM