Former Real Madrid coach Aitor Karanka has revealed how the rivalry with Messi pushed Ronaldo and the team to new heights.
A painful 5-0 defeat to a Lionel Messi-inspired Barcelona side was the ‘wake-up call’ Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid needed to hit new heights, according to former coach Aitor Karanka.
In November 2010, Real Madrid suffered a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Barcelona. David Villa scored a brace with Barca’s current manager Xavi, Pedro, and Jeffren also on target at Camp Nou.
It was arguably one of the darkest moments in Real Madrid’s history yet, in Karanka’s view, was what drove Ronaldo and the club to a level that would challenge Messi and Barcelona at their peak.
“It was painful, but it was a wake-up call for us that we needed,” Karanka, who worked as an assistant to then-Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho, told the Mirror.
“We had signed a lot of young players – such as Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira – and they did not have the experience that Barcelona players – a lot of them had just won the World Cup.
“I remember seeing Cristiano Ronaldo before games and how focused he was to score goals and to win games, to be better, and to eclipse Lionel Messi. That was the competition that made us improve.”
‘CR7 always is driven to win and to score goals’
Things did indeed turn around from that point onward.
Ronaldo recovered to beat Messi as La Liga’s top-scorer for 2010/11 on 40 goals. He later helped Real Madrid win the league title the following season, finishing nine points above Barca on a tally of 100. That year alone, CR7 bagged 60 goals in just 55 appearances.
Los Blancos went on to further domestic success and capped off a glory-laden era with four Champions League titles from 2014 until Ronaldo’s departure to Juventus in 2018.
The Portuguese icon scored a record 450 goals in 438 games in a nine-year spell for the Spanish giants.
“It was a pleasure and a privilege to have worked with Cristiano,” Karanka continued.
“Cristiano is a proper professional and a leader – but not one who is always shouting, but he shows he is a leader with his work ethic. He is the first player at the training ground and the last player to leave. He always is driven to win and to score goals.
“When I was at Real Madrid, the Ronaldo-Messi competition and the Madrid-Barca rivalry made us better as a team and as individuals. Every match between the two teams was such a big challenge for everyone. It is fantastic to see him still playing for Manchester United as a proper leader – he will look for the ball and play as a striker, but when the team has difficulties he is always there.”