Cristiano Ronaldo is undoubtedly one of the greatest players to ever grace the game. He has innumerable records to his name and only keeps adding to that list. Few players can match him or his many accomplishments. But is time catching up with him?
Ronaldo is two months away from turning 35, it is 17 years since he made his debut as a skinny teen. As he matured, he has transformed himself into a supreme athlete. Against Sampordia, he launched himself 2.55 metres into the air and stayed in flight for 1.5 seconds to score the winner. Yet this comes nowhere close to his personal best. His best was a 2.93 metres jump to score against Manchester United in a Champions League game for Real Madrid. From being a pacey winger full of tricks, he has turned himself into the most complete goalscorer football has ever seen. He is lethal with both his feet and head. Yet life is such that even the best have to prove themselves again and again. ‘Is Ronaldo on the wane’ is a question he has to answer every day.
He was averaging 1.06 goals per game in Real Madrid, which has gone down to about 0.7 goals per game so far playing for Juventus. But these numbers hide the fact that Ronaldo at Real Madrid was supported by a brilliant attack. At Juventus though, he is often the only potent threat. Ronaldo at Juventus is often a victim of his team’s tactics. Massimiliano Allegri’s inclination to a defensive set-up often infuriated him and the super-slow build up play of Sarriball fails to play to Ronaldo's strengths. This probably has made him an even better finisher though. He averages around 5.6 shots per goal now is significantly lesser than the 6.6 he averaged while at Real Madrid. Further, his 1.5 dribbles per game so far in Juventus is a significant increase from 1.1 and 0.9 dribbles per game in his last two seasons in Real Madrid. For Madrid, he was primarily a goalscorer while his stay in Juventus so far has seen him getting more involved and creating more for his teammates. His average of 1.7 key passes per game (in the league so far) is the highest he has managed in the last 4 seasons, reflecting that while he may not get in the box as often, he still has a huge impact in the game.
It is perfectly natural to see a player suffering a bit in a new country and then there’s the fact that Serie A is considerably more defensive than the La Liga. Maybe he is an extraterrestial footballing machine, but while on Earth, he is bound by time. Time will eventually get to him, but it is too premature to say that he is a waning force.