Messi
Messi

Luis Enrique was fortunate to see his side lead 3-0 before a fit-again Messi was even introduced from the bench, and Ronaldo’s influence was quelled by some superb tactical advances from the Catalan visitors.

Ronaldo - Messi
Ronaldo – Messi

As has been the case during Messi’s absence from the Barca lineup, Luis Suarez and Neymar dazzled as the star men of the show, and Ronaldo was prevented from adding to his El Clasico record.

It’s somewhat uncertain as to how many of these fixtures 30-year-old Ronaldo has left in his tank, and the Portugal captain is still playing catch-up in El Clasico circumstances when compared to his Barcelona rival:

Lionel Messi vs. Cristiano Ronaldo in El Clasico Matches

Games Goals Assists
Lionel Messi 31 21 13
Cristiano Ronaldo 27 13 15

Saturday’s triumph also means Barca now boast a six-point advantage at the head of La Liga, and a 4-0 thumping at the Bernabeu will give the reigning champions supreme confidence in the race to defend their crown.

Messi and Ronaldo will each have major roles to play in the campaign to come, but Saturday’s El Clasico encounter was an eerie example of how the fixture can still sparkle without them on the scoresheet.

Some players are so essential to the fortunes of any given team that the entire club’s success can depend on whether they achieve their best, and Saturday showed how Real Madrid can fall short if Ronaldo does the same.

He struggled to leave his mark on the fixture along with James Rodriguez, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema in what was the most convincing Barcelona performance seen at the Bernabeu in some years

It was the kind of embarrassing defeat that inspired headlines stating Ronaldo has told the club either manager Rafa Benitez goes or he does, per La Gazzetta dello Sport (h/t Sport).

With the Portuguese set to turn 31 in February and enduring one of his least prolific seasons in Madrid, Ronaldo’s poor form of late has been put into context by Real Madrid Info:

No team wants to be so reliant on one player, and ultimately it was Barcelona’s ability to cope without Messi that saw the team through to victory in the Spanish capital, and a huge one at that.

Interestingly, Ronaldo has produced more assists than Messi in El Clasico meetings, with his tally standing at 15 while the Barca man’s total is just 13, indicating the former may not be the selfish star he’s sometimes made out to be.

But Messi dominates in the count that truly matters, having netted 21 El Clasico goals to Ronaldo’s 15, one contest Real’s icon may struggle to turn back in his favour before taking his leave of La Liga.

As Catalan newspaper Mundo Deportivo showed on Sunday, per Messi Stats, the Argentina ace was little more than a happy bonus from the bench and featured on the pitch for just one of his side’s four goals:

At 28 years of age, it’s predictable that Messi has a longer lifespan in El Clasico matchups, and he’ll be striving to stay injury-free in the hopes he can have a bigger say in the return fixture later this campaign.

Ronaldo is still revered as all too critical a component in Real Madrid’s success, and until their star man is back in firing form, Los Merengues may not be able to once again hit their full potential.

Source: Tom Sunderland

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