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Why talk of Cristiano Ronaldo's decline is premature

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Given the amount of success Ronaldo has already tasted, its only reasonable to wonder how much longer he can be influential.

Ronaldo is back in the goals with a hat-trick against rivals Atletico Madrid

For years, Cristiano Ronaldo has dominated the footballing world in the company of his nemesis Lionel Messi. Together, the duo have taken their rivalry to unprecedented heights, so much so that, each of the past 7 Balon d’Or awards have been shared by the pair.

Moreover, encounters between their clubs, and at times their countries, have been built up, and decided by the sheer brilliance of one of these two geniuses.

But despite their epic rivalry, it must be remembered that Ronaldo, being the senior of the two, may not have as many years left at the very top, as compared to the Argentine.

Moreover, given the amount of success Ronaldo has already tasted with both club and country, it’s only reasonable to wonder how much longer the Portuguese international can continue his reign over world football.

The story so far

Ever since Ronaldo’s 2009 move to Real Madrid on a then world record fee of £80 million, his numbers, records and stats have been simply phenomenal. Ronaldo was deemed a club legend in Manchester United and put on a pedestal alongside United legends like Best, Law, Charlton, Giggs and Scholes, his performances in Spain have catapulted him to be named a true football legend and one of the greatest to step on a football pitch.

7 years and 362 appearances since his move, there isn’t a club competition that CR7 hasn’t won with Madrid. His 374 goals in all competitions for Madrid has put him at the top the all-time leading goal scorer’s list; a feat that took Ronaldo’s predecessor, Raul Gonzalez 16 seasons to achieve.

Finally, for anyone who claims that Ronaldo is ‘selfish’, let it also be known that Ronaldo has assisted a grand total of 130 goals in all competitions as a Madrid player.       

Lessons from the past month

It goes without saying that Ronaldo’s stellar career hasn’t been without its share of ups and downs. However, the major difference between Ronaldo and everyone else is that, Ronaldo more than anyone else, is a victim of his own ridiculously high standards.

Over the years, football fans have become so habituated to seeing Ronaldo score goals for fun, that him hitting the back of the net in every game has become the norm for Ronaldo. So much so that, even a minor run of games in which Ronaldo fails to score, is quickly seen as the beginning of his ‘decline’.

This was evident more than ever earlier this season when Ronaldo failed to score with his usual consistency. Despite missing 3 0f Madrid’s first 9 matches earlier this season through injury and illness, Ronaldo had still managed to conjure one goal and two assists during that time. 

Further, though this would be a commendable feat for any other player, it was considered by his critics to be ‘the beginning of the end’ for Madrid’s no.7. Moreover, even when Ronaldo did return to his usual prolific ways, with a hat-trick against Deportivo Alaves, he was criticised of not being a ‘big match’ player.

However, Ronaldo once again provided his detractors a fitting response by striking a match-winning hat-trick against Atletico Madrid last weekend. His performance was a timely reminder of the fact that Ronaldo’s hunger, desire and motivation to be the best is still unchanged, despite spending more than a decade at the helm of world football.

Changing times call for a change in role

Perhaps the only thing that has changed for Ronaldo over the years is his starting position on the pitch. Although Ronaldo made a name for himself as a winger during his initial days, he now finds himself playing much more centrally and leading the line of attack in recent times, for both club and country.

This change can be said to have enhanced his goal scoring abilities. Though Ronaldo has always been a proven goal scorer, the fact that playing in a central position has aided his goal scoring prowess can’t be denied.

Further, this change in position may just be perfect for Ronaldo, as he goes into the latter stages of his career; he is certain to lose his pace, sooner rather than later, but he’ll always know his way to goal, as he showed in the Madrid derby last weekend.  

International glory

Ronaldo captained his country to glory in the summer

For all his proficiency at club level, the only achievement missing from CR7’s glittering CV was a trophy with his national side. However, he managed to set the record straight by captaining Portugal to Euro glory in France, earlier this year.

With this victory, Ronaldo also managed to slay the demons of narrowly missing out on winning the same competition, as a teenager, in 2004.

In a way, Ronaldo’s European triumph with Portugal has come at just the right time for the former Sporting Lisbon man, as this might have been Ronaldo’s last realistic chance to win silverware for his country.

Having worn the national colours for more than a decade already, Ronaldo will be 33 by the time the World Cup in Russia comes around, and despite being known for his disciplined lifestyle, Ronaldo might not be at the peak of his powers to guide his team to glory in two years’ time.

What Lies Ahead

Ronaldo has never hid his desire to be the world’s best player and the greatest of all time; and it is perhaps, this desire and determination that has kept him going till date.

Most importantly his stellar performance in last weekend’s derby has shown that Ronaldo still has a fair bit of football left in him, and for someone who has always played the game on his own terms, it’s perhaps most difficult to predict how much longer Ronaldo can continue his reign over world football.  

But whenever Ronaldo does decide to call it a day, one can be rest assured that he will walk away a happy man, for such has been his contribution to the beautiful game that, football will be divided into two eras - before and after Cristiano Ronaldo.   

(Video Courtesy: colosimo99 YouTube Channel)

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