Cristiano Ronaldo chronicles: Revolutionizing off the ball movements
We are all familiar with the exploits of Cristiano Ronaldo on the pitch throughout his well-decorated career. But according to most critics, Cristiano was guilty of scoring 'tap ins' which goes to show how misunderstood his role was.
Cristiano is the greatest among the greats to wear the royal whites of Real Madrid due to his inhumane statistics with the club. Branding his goals as 'lucky' is almost a criminal offence considering how good Cristiano was at his job.
While great players tend to impact matches with the ball at their feet, things get difficult when they turn 30. Their pace drops, their feet get slower and often, they fail to function at their very best. Cristiano realized his shortcomings- that he cannot dribble or run past as he once used to do and improvised his game to evolve with age.
At Manchester United and initially with Real Madrid, Cristiano used to terrify the wings with his pace, power, precision and runs on the ball. But in the last few seasons, Cristiano appeared on a more central role when going forward.
Coaches like Carlo Ancelotti and Zinedine Zidane knew how devastating Cristiano can be with a free role. Cristiano repaid them with tremendous goals at pivotal moments while doing less with the ball than he used to do. He focused more on the final output of a move and achieved the maximum efficiency by changing the dynamics of his game.
“When you play a match, it is statistically proven that players actually have the ball 3 minutes on average. So, the most important thing is: what do you do during those 87 minutes when you do not have the ball. That is what determines whether you’re a good player or not.” - Johan Cruyff.
Cristiano Ronaldo's brilliance over the last few years is a testament to the above quote of the legendary Johan Cruyff. Cristiano can change the result of the match even without the ball at his feet. His off the ball movement is probably his most underrated quality and gives a valid explanation of the result of 'tap ins'.
While viewers may count 'tap ins' as easy goals, the truth is far from that. It takes an enormous amount of hard work to anticipate, to fool defenders and to get to the pass or cross coming on their way. Cristiano Ronaldo's off the ball movements managed to fool almost all great defensively organized teams and great defenders in these last few years.
How often we have wondered how Cristiano is in the right place at the right time? The one thing Cristiano does is run into space and look over his shoulders before even receiving the ball. Like most greats, Cristiano watches and anticipates the movements of his markers, which makes it relatively easy to get the better of defenders and create space.
Being a fox in the box, Cristiano's movements are not as predictable as other forwards. He often changes his direction while charging in to meet a pass or a cross which leaves him unmarked or away from his marker and eventually leaves him with the ball to tap in.
His runs push the defenders back while reducing the number of overlaps of the fullbacks and forces the changes in the shape of the defensive organization of rival teams.
For instance, we often talk about his marvellous bicycle kick against Juventus but the first goal in the same match requires a great deal of appreciation, too. His movements to shake off his markers to reach the pass and that sublime finish at the end was world class.
His recent performances in the UEFA Champions League versus the likes of Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid, Paris Saint Germain and countless other teams shows why dominated the knockouts against top teams.
While dribbling on the ball may be more eye pleasing to viewers, we can't deny the fact that the off the ball movements of a player like Cristiano has its own devastating effect. It is one of the pivotal reasons for Cristiano's success even after he lost his pace and at the wrong side of 30.