It is official: Cristiano Ronaldo will miss Real Madrid's next five matches. The Portuguese forward has received the suspension for pushing the referee in Sunday's 3-1 win over Barcelona at Camp Nou. It could have been worse, though, and it may actually be a blessing in disguise for Los Blancos.
Ronaldo returned to training later than his team-mates after appearing for Portugal in the Confederations Cup earlier this summer. The 32-year-old is, therefore, behind in terms of fitness and started on the bench as Real retained the UEFA Super Cup with victory over Manchester United in Skopje last Tuesday.
On Sunday, he was left out of the team again, coming on in the second half to score a wonder goal before being sent off minutes later after he was adjudged to have dived in the area. In his obvious frustration, the Portuguese pushed the referee in the back and the incident was mentioned in the official's match report.
Punishment for such offences varies between four and 12 matches, but Spain's Competition Committee handed Ronaldo a five-game ban on Monday, meaning he will miss the Supercopa second leg against Barca, as well as Liga fixtures versus Deportivo La Coruna, Valencia, Levante and Real Sociedad.
With a two-goal advantage to take into the second leg of the Supercopa, however, Madrid will be big favourites to claim the trophy as coach Zinedine Zidane has plenty of talent in reserve, with Luka Modric back from a ban and Marco Asensio in line for a start following his own sublime strike at Camp Nou.
As Zidane said of Ronaldo's suspension, "We can’t change it and we’ll try to win [the Supercopa] on Wednesday without him. Even with 10 men, we still fought and we believed in the win until the end."
At home against a bruised Barca still reeling from the departure of Neymar and seemingly no closer to signing a replacement for the Brazil forward, Real should not miss Ronaldo too much at the Santiago Bernabeu.
In the four Liga fixtures after that, they should also be able to manage. Deportivo away is not the tough trip it once was for Real, while Levante at home should prove fairly straightforward for Los Blancos. Although the visit of Valencia and the away game at Real Sociedad could prove more difficult, Madrid should still be too strong - even without Ronaldo.
In the meantime, the break will be beneficial for the four-time Ballon d'Or winner. Rested frequently by Zidane in 2016-17 in order to stay fresh for the entire campaign, he will now be afforded an opportunity to build up his fitness in the weeks ahead. In other words, he'll have a proper pre-season.
Cristiano can come back in the Liga game against Betis on September 20, over a month later, refreshed and revitalised following an extended break that will allow him to work on his conditioning and get up to speed at the training facilities in Valdebebas.
He could return before that, however, with the first round of group games in the Champions League likely to take place a few days earlier, on September 12 and 13 (as the ban only takes in domestic fixtures).
Nevertheless, that is still a month off. And when he returns, he will be fitter and stronger, while Real have shown they no longer depend solely on the Portuguese to win matches as they once did.
So, although losing a player of his calibre for a month of the season will be considered as something of a blow, Ronaldo's five-match suspension may actually turn out to be a positive in the long run for Madrid.