Real Madrid continue to miss Cristiano Ronaldo and cannot expect Vinicius Junior to fill the void left by the five-time world footballer of the year, says former Barcelona man Jordi Cruyff.
The 34-year-old Ronaldo joined Juventus for €114 million [£99m/$128m] in the summer after nine seasons in the Spanish capital.
Madrid failed to properly replace the Portugal international however and suffered during the first half of the campaign as a result, with new coach Julen Lopetegui dismissed from the top job in October.
Santiago Solari has inspired a revival which sees Los Blancos just six points behind leaders Barcelona in a helter-skelter title race.
Attempts to win the Champions League for a fourth time in a row also continue on Wednesday when they face Ajax in the last-16 first leg .
And Amsterdam-native Jordi Cruyff – formerly of the Ajax youth system – sees the failure to replace Ronaldo as a major weakness.
“In the end, they are players who have ability above the others, appear at important moments, guarantee you a number of goals,” he told Goal .
“When you are on the field, you always trust your options because you have that special player.
“Now Real Madrid rely more on being a team. And I think they still miss Cristiano.
“If the match goes 0-0, that marquee player is the one who unbalances.”
In his first full season at the Santiago Bernabeu, 18-year-old Vinicius has been parachuted into the first team since Lopetegui’s exit .
The Brazilian has contributed three goals and 11 assists in the senior side but Cruyff – who is currently managing at Chinese club Chongqing SWM – does not believe he is ready to be the central pillar of the Real side.
“He’s young, he’s very talented, that’s why they paid what was paid for him,” the ex-Netherlands international and father of Barcelona legend Johan Cruyff added.
“But of course, asking him to carry the team is unfair. It is unfair to ask for it and also to wait for it.
“He is young and needs the time to learn and adapt that his age requires. He will have ups and downs, which is normal.
“His talent is obvious, but often it is better not to talk much about him so that he can be calm and without so much pressure on his back.”