There are six days to go and as Real Madrid's clash with Paris Saint-Germain approaches, nervousness grows. There's scepticism amongst the club's fans too, many of whom are disillusioned by the side's lack of resolve in LaLiga. And perhaps, more worrying, is the equally rapid decline of Cristiano Ronaldo - the man who was once Los Blancos' great hope but is now a shadow of his former self.
In a sense, the match against the world's richest team could serve as both a look back at the past as well as a glimpse into the future. Throughout the summer transfer window, Real Madrid were consistently linked with a move for Kylian Mbappe only for the Frenchman to sign for the Parisians. But if rumours of interest in Neymar are to be believed, the club have found themselves their newest Galactico. And the arrival of the Brazilian, one suspects, could spell the end for Ronaldo's time at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu with a contract extension looking less likely by the day.
In many ways, the story couldn't have had a better script. On Monday, the Portugues international turned to 33, and as destiny would have it, his potential successor also took some time out to blow out some candles on his 26th birthday. Meanwhile, Cristiano Ronaldo has 20 goals and four assists in 27 games this season whilst Neymar has 27 goals and 14 assists in 26 games.
But while the latter, and Lionel Messi also, have been making the headlines this season, it is the 33-year-old who has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. Last season, many believed Ronaldo was finished only for him to bag 17 goals in their final 11 matches to secure the LaLiga and Champions League titles, and this season, for many at least, it seems the decline has well and truly set in.
Ronaldo, though, remains as confident as ever. The five-time Ballon d'Or winner no longer plays every match, in fact, he chooses them meticulously; his focus is on more Champions League glory. It is no wonder then that he is the competition's top-scorer with nine goals in six matches.
"I feel that I can maintain myself at the highest level for several years," he told GQ Magazine. "I have a lot of ambition and I still want to secure more achievements, But to maintain this level it is necessary to make sacrifices, there are certain things I did at 20 that I cannot do anymore."
As such, Real Madrid's tie against Paris Saint-Germain could not have come at a better time. With supporters quickly losing faith and the desire to reinvigorate his season, Ronaldo has the perfect opportunity to prove his critics wrong and demonstrate that he still is a class above the rest.
ARTICLE AUTHOR: CARLOS CARPIO