- The UEFA Champions League resumes tonight.
- Cristiano Ronaldo will not be gracing us with his presence come Wednesday
- A nostalgic fixture between Real Madrid and Napoli.
As the world prepares for the return of the most prestigious sporting event in football history; The UEFA Champions League, Cristiano_Ronaldo the Portuguese goal machine will not be on the Real Madrid line up come Wednesday.
Real Madrid who is slated to play Napoli this Wednesday will have to play without their star striker Cristiano with a record 96 Champions League strikes to his name. He suffered a heavy tackle in a 3-1 win over Osasuna at the weekend and as the rest of the Real Madrid squad trained on ball skills on Monday, Ronaldo and Fábio_Coentrão trained inside. Ronaldo who is the current World player of the year, suffered a knock to his right leg, according to press reports, adding he was expected to shake off the injury in time to play Wednesday.
This takes us back in time 1987 to be exact. The story of Real Madrid vs Napoli and the birth of the Champions League that changed football as we know it. The first-round ‘super match’ in 1987 pitted Diego Maradona against Emilio Butragueno, but it would go on to change the face of European football for the good of the rich and plentiful. Napoli’s Diego Maradona was one of many players struck by the strange “uniqueness” of the occasion.
The last and only other time that Napoli travelled to Real Madrid; back in the 1987-88 European Cup, involved a hugely bad-tempered game that also saw a manager call a player a “mafioso” and took place in front of no fans and in an odd silence, due to crowd trouble the previous season from Real’s infamous Ultrasurs. It was hardly the setting for such a highly anticipated match between two heavyweights, not to mention the meeting of one of the greatest players ever and the most successful European Cup club ever. All of that will likely get replayed in the build-up to Napoli’s return to the Bernabeu on Wednesday, but none of it is what really makes that 1987 match unique.
It is also a situation with several levels of irony. What is only the second ever tie between Real and Napoli is now seen as a novelty in a last-16 stage that has meetings of FC Barcelona–PSG F.C and Arsenal–Bayern Munich both being replayed for the fourth time in just five years, a level of repetition that has dulled some of the Champions League’s intrigue and mystique.
It was exactly the intrigue and a mystique of a rarely-played fixture coming in the competition’s old opening knock-out round, however that led to that. What’s more, this growth of the Champions League has someway cannibalized some of those who were initially so behind super league ideas – from Rangers in Scotland to Liverpool and even Milan themselves.
With all the intrigue surrounding this face off of the giants, one could only hope that Cristiano will be ready for their return leg on the 22nd February.