Champions League

Mariano Diaz unfazed by the weight of Cristiano Ronaldo’s shirt

Real Madrid re-signed former striker Mariano Diaz from Lyon for €33 million and handed him the iconic ‘7’ shirt after the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo

Mariano initially spent two years with Real Madrid C from 2012-14. He made 46 appearances scoring 18 goals in the process. He was then pushed up into the Real Madrid B side where he spent another couple of years. During this period, he scored 32 goals in 44 appearances and now he’s been brought back to the Bernabeu a year after he left to replace Cristiano Ronaldo.

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Owing to impressive outings with Real Madrid B, Mariano was drafted into the Real Madrid first team for the 2016-17 season. However, he made only 8 appearances in that season and scored just once.

In the following season, he was sold to Olympique Lyonnais for 8 million euros. The 25-year-old had a solid season with Lyon. He scored 21 goals in 48 appearances across all competitions. As a result, he was re-signed by Madrid at the beginning of the 2018-19 season. On being asked whether he was already under pressure because of the shirt, he said, “I think [that taking the number] it is the least important thing, Yes [it weighs heavy], but it was free, it’s a number that I like and it’s a personal challenge.

I’m happy to wear the No. 7 [shirt], following Amancio, Juanito, [Emilio] Butragueno and Raul… and since I was a kid, I’ve seen them play with him … And Cristiano Ronaldo, of course. It was free, all Real Madrid fans know it, and they tell me what number I wanted to wear. I asked what numbers are free. And I said: ‘I like the No. 7.’

Many people have told me [that it was very bold to take it]. Other people have told me bad things. Not bad but that there is pressure in wearing that number. Others have told me that I have been brave and others that I should not have taken it. I’m not thinking about it [the pressure], just training every day to the maximum to be able to enjoy minutes.”

He also confessed that Real manager Julen Lopetegui’s call surprised him, “I didn’t have his phone number, I didn’t know who it was,I wasn’t expecting a call at that moment. He told me he’d love if I would come back and I told him the same and he explained everything to me. Sevilla was interested in me.

That is something which I appreciated very much but then Madrid called, which is the club of my dreams and here I am. They knew that the club I love is Madrid, so I guess they have to understand.”

Author’s take

Jersey number ‘7’ or not, when you are replacing someone of the stature of Cristiano Ronaldo, there is bound to be a lot of pressure. And along with this pressure comes criticism and scrutiny. It will be interesting to see whether Mariano can live up to the expectations of the Madrid faithful.

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