Would Julen Lopetegui still be in a job if Real Madrid had retained the services of Cristiano Ronaldo?
It’s impossible to say but the sacked coach’s father, Juan Antonio, had a point when he accused the club of gross negligence in failing to adequately replace the Portuguese after his summer switch to Juventus.
“[Real] are missing a prominent goalscorer,” Lopetegui senior fumed. “They haven’t bought one, not a single one!
“There was talk of Neymar and others, but no one came. They stole 50 goals from my son!”
That may have been a slight exaggeration but Ronaldo’s storming start to his Serie A career, coupled with Real’s struggles to score goals, show just how badly his loss is being felt at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Ronaldo has been integral to their fantastic form. Indeed, no player in Serie A has been directly involved in more goals than Ronaldo this season (11), with the 33-year-old having scored seven and created a further four in just 10 outings.
How Lopetegui could have done with such a productive attacker before his dismissal after last weekend’s humiliating 5-1 loss to Barcelona, which left the reigning European champions ninth in the Primera Division standings, seven points adrift of the table-topping Catalans.
During the former Spain coach’s short but turbulent tenure, Real endured their second-worst goal drought of all time (480 minutes).
Funnily enough, though, Real had started their Liga campaign in encouraging and prolific fashion, by scoring 10 times in three successive wins, against Getafe, Girona and Leganes.
At that early stage, there was giddy talk that Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema were flourishing in Ronaldo’s absence and that they, along with new signing Mariano Diaz and exciting winger Marco Asensio, could make up for the loss of the club’s all-time record goalscorer.
However, neither Benzema nor Bale has scored in La Liga since the 4-1 win over Leganes on matchday three.
Indeed, the pair have just seven goals between them (four for the Frenchman and three for the Welshman) – as many as Ronaldo has racked up on his own in Serie A.
Mariano, who inherited Ronaldo’s No.7 shirt, has yet to find the back of the net in La Liga since returning to Real from Lyon for a cut-price €23 million, while Asensio has only struck once.
Real aren’t just missing Ronaldo’s goals either: this season, Real’s four attackers have a combined four assists – the same number as Ronaldo.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner revealed last week that he effectively left Madrid because “the president looked at me in a way that suggested I was no longer indispensable”.
Unfortunately for Perez, Ronaldo has since proven himself exactly that.