April 18, 2017 and Cristiano Ronaldo is in his element.
Real Madrid have just sent Bayern Munich crashing out of the Champions League after an enthralling contest at Santiago Bernabeu which delivered six goals, including one hat-trick, a red card, record-breaking achievements and countless talking points.
The man to claim the match ball was none other than Ronaldo, with the Portuguese becoming the first man to net 100 times in European football’s premier club competition.
Before he got his hands on that memento, though, the Portuguese was pictured embracing his opposite number Robert Lewandowski – the man Bayern look to for similar moments of inspiration.
The Pole had found the target in the Spanish capital, helping to take the quarter-final tie to extra-time and enhance his own personal record of netting against the La Liga giants, but he was to end up on the losing side.
Could he, however, be about to trade those sides?
Speculation to have surfaced in the wake of another heavyweight continental encounter has suggested that Ronaldo is looking for Madrid to pair him with Lewandowski in 2017-18, with the Blancos readying themselves for another ‘Galactico’ pursuit this summer.
Did he have a quiet word in the striker’s ear as the pair embraced in the middle of the Bernabeu pitch? Was that really the first thing that came to mind after 120 minutes of frenetic action?
|Player||Goals||Goals ex penalties||Penalties||Left-footed||Right-footed||Headed||Outside box||Inside box||Shooting accuracy||Total shots||Conversion rate||Hat-tricks|
|Antonio Di Natale||107||88||19||14||86||7||12||95||52.54||678||15.78||4|
Maybe, and it is not too difficult to see why Ronaldo would be keen to see such a move pushed through.
Since being snapped up by Borussia Dortmund in the summer of 2010, Lewandowski has been a goal-scoring machine with few equals.
Only five men boast a better return over the course of the last six seasons, and all of those offer no realistic alternative for Madrid if they are to look at bolstering an already impressive array of firepower.
Ronaldo is clearly one member of the quintet, and he is already with Real, while Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez are unlikely to be crossing the Clasico divide any time soon.
Elsewhere, Zlatan Ibrahimovic may fancy himself as a Benjamin Button-type character, but he is 35 years of age and currently nursing an injury which could bring a premature end to a memorable 12-month stint at Manchester United.
That leaves Paris Saint-Germain forward Edinson Cavani, but he too is now the wrong side of 30 and has just committed to a new contract with the reigning French champions through to 2020.
Lewandowski, then, is the best of the options available to Madrid if they are prepared to splash the cash once more – with his record in recent years placing him above the likes of Gonzalo Higuain (who Real have already had on their books), Sergio Aguero (who they have been linked with in the past), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (an alternative that is said to be being considered) and Karim Benzema (who remains part of their plans at present).
It must, however, be taken into account that Lewandowski’s impressive figures have been posted as the leading frontman at Dortmund and Bayern, with his role very much at the focal point of attacking units complemented by a willing supporting cast.
At Madrid, Ronaldo is the first, second and third name on the teamsheet and has shown down the years that he does not take too kindly to anyone trying to steal his limelight or potential goal share.
In Germany, Lewandowski has the likes of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery providing the ammunition alongside him, with that pair considerably less selfish in the assisting stakes than potential team-mates in Spain.
It is when taking that into account, and Benzema’s very healthy return considering his role at Real, that questions arise regarding a potential big-money attacking arrival at the Bernabeu.
Lewandowski’s record is not that much better than Benzema’s, especially when you consider that the latter has not had a single penalty aid his cause over the last six years and has only one hat-trick in his haul.
There is also just an eight-month age gap between the pair, so Real could hardly argue that a trade would be planning for the future.
Benzema may have his critics but his value is often underappreciated and his willingness to operate in the shadow cast by those around him should be applauded – after all, would Lewandowski be willing to do the same?
The 28-year-old is a world-class striker, of that there is no doubt, but he is already at a club that harbours treble-winning aspirations every season and the outlay which would be required to get him, while edging Benzema out of the door, could be considered spending for the sake of it.
Madrid have, however, made a habit of doing that down the years and what Ronaldo wants he tends to get, so if the four-time Ballon d’Or winner really does want to turn the BBC into the BLC, then there is every chance that a deal will be done.