Post-Ronaldo Real get first test
TALLINN, Estonia (AP):
The shadow of Cristiano Ronaldo is still hanging over Real Madrid as the team prepares to face fierce rivals AtlÈtico Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup final today.
Captain Sergio Ramos, though, has no doubt that the club can deal with the departure of the five-time Ballon d'Or winner, who joined Juventus in a €112 million ($131-million) deal after the World Cup.
"We've lost a very important and influential player, but that doesn't mean we're going to stop winning," he said. "Other big players at Real Madrid have come and gone. The club rises above all of its players, including symbolic ones like him. Hopefully things go well for him and for us too."
So far, Madrid have not resorted to a "fal·cticos" spending spree to replace Ronaldo, whose transfer followed coach Zinedine Zidane's surprising resignation after he led Madrid to a third consecutive Champions League title.
Zidane's replacement, Julen Lopetegui, seems to be relying on the talent already at his disposal and a new tactical system. The major summer signing has been goalkeeper Thibault Courtois from Chelsea.
The big changes at Madrid have given new impetus to forwards Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Marco Asensio to step up and fill the void left by Ronaldo, who scored 450 goals in 438 matches for Madrid.
AtlÈtico have failed against Madrid on European football's biggest stage in recent times, losing Champions League finals in 2014 and 2016, and a semifinal in 2017.
But coach Diego Simeone believes that could all change this year. The team has brought in new players like attacking midfielder Thomas Lemar from Monaco, while holding onto key ones like World Cup winner Antoine Griezmann, who signed a new contract despite interest from other teams.
"The players want to come and the youngsters don't want to leave," Simeone said in Tallinn.