Cristiano Ronaldo returned, but bad math says Real Madrid’s still better without him

If last week’s numbers didn’t convince you, today’s result should have. Against intracity rivals Atlético, Real Madrid wasted all the momentum it cultivated in Cristiano Ronaldo’s absence, celebrating the return of its Ballon d’Or winner with a 4-0 embarrassment at the Vicente Calderón.

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The difference between Carlo Ancelotti’s team with and without its “best player” couldn’t be more obvious, unless you know anything about proper statistical analysis. But since this isn’t, we can’t rely on proper methods. All we can do is exaggerate superficial conclusions from limited data – the numbers with and without Cristiano Ronaldo over the last 188 minutes (how long El Real was recently without its suspended star):



Incredibly telling stuff, but for CR7 loyalists, the numbers won’t be convincing. Small sample size, they’ll say. Strength of schedule, they’ll note, as if we care. If we wanted to look beyond the last two weeks, we would have found a myriad other observations that show Cristiano Ronaldo’s actually a very good player.

But we don’t live in the past any more than we dwell on the present. We’re about the future. We’re looking at trajectories, and every piece of valuable out-of-context data tells us the same thing: Real Madrid needs to bench Cristiano Ronaldo. This trend is only getting worse.

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People will use today’s result to put a new face on Spain’s title race, but Real Madrid has bigger things to worry about. If these with-Ronaldo numbers persist, qualifying for Champions League is no guarantee. Does Carlo Ancelotti have the courage to make the right call?