Widely regarded as one of the greatest players our generation has ever witnessed, the Portuguese prodigy from Madeira has turned into a fairly decent player, don’t you think? From an 18-year-old boy arriving at Carrington full of talent and enthusiasm, it was evident amongst many at Old Trafford after his debut that this was the beginning of a youngster embarking on his path to greatness. A dream to become the best the world has ever seen. He envisaged himself on top of the podium and has made this ultimate dream a reality. What next?
Fast forward twelve years and three Ballon D’ors later, Cristiano now aged thirty has been a little out of sorts since 2015 started. His overall play as well as goals has deteriorated in recent months, which has promoted an angry response from some Real Madrid supporters and large parts of the media both spouting remarks the Portuguese phenomenon is ‘finished’. Doubting Cristiano’s ability ey? What a dangerous thing to do, the man is still capable of something incredible regardless of age. Thirty is just a number, nothing more. I’ve realised especially in recent weeks, Cristiano has come under huge amounts of criticism which is fair, however saying he’s been below-par throughout this campaign is nothing short of ridiculous, the guy was literally unstoppable until December came around. Quite amazing how quickly people forget what you’ve achieved because of a few mediocre performances. Cristiano should not be immune to criticism because recently he deserves this, players of this magnitude will always be torn apart whenever possible, that’s part of being the best.
The real question itching everyone’s lips this season, can Ronaldo keep this up? Has the decline begun?
A fresh challenge
We’ve essentially become so accustomed to Ronaldo’s explosive pace, unbelievable dribbling ability, rocket free-kicks and ridiculous trickery in recent years that if we don’t witness this enough during games especially this season, people start to suddenly question, has his overall game now declined? The simple and logical answer would be yes but (there’s always a ‘but’) only certain aspects of his game which are most noticeable have deteriorated. Other aspects such as shooting, heading and overall intelligence of the game have improved massively over the course of the season, the Ronaldo we have all admired that would throw four step-overs before beating two defenders and unleashing an absolute bullet on goal has pretty much vanished, it’s unlikely we’ll see that player again. Perhaps glimpses in the odd game however we definitely won’t be seeing that remarkable sight frequently like in previous seasons for Manchester United and Real Madrid. He’s changed as a player, it’s become evident this season and a small period throughout the last. A transition for the best, adopting a new position where he’ll become much more effective; a striker. Game by game Cristiano’s decline in pace has essentially become more apparent, small bursts instead of your typical Fifty yard sprint with the ball cushioned against his feet. Hold-up play is another feature of his play which will gradually improve, his strength will provide him with alternatives in that central role. He takes less touches on the ball, passes are much quicker hence the possible reason for a larger number of assists this season. A changed man.
If you occasionally watch Madrid this season in particular like myself you’ll come to the realisation that Cristiano has developed a more central role as supposed to his left-wing role. I honestly believe this was done to resolve his decline in different aspects, the Portuguese captain has worked extremely hard mainly on implementing a new style into his overall game, he’s much more than just a tricky winger now. This could be interpreted in different ways however his transition has undoubtedly improved other aspects whilst diminishing his overall dexterity and effectiveness in wide situations. Carlo Ancelotti positions Ronaldo on the wing, however they both know he’ll approach the game as a striker, inevitably drifting into the centre partnering Benzema whilst Marcelo covers the left-hand side. Cristiano can still manage on the wing, likes of his crossing ability has improved however the future, in order for a player of his calibre to remain at the top lies upfront, the number 9 role. This old Ronaldo you keeping thinking of every game won’t return, he’s receiving criticism for not performing like his usual self, the sooner supporters realise the better.
After landing his second successive Ballon D’or last month (third altogether), Cristiano will definitely be determined to capture his fourth in 2016 which would equal the amount of the great Lionel Messi. He’s always hungry for more trophies and when in full flight there’s not many who can stop him achieving that incredible feat, well there’s this one genius. Yup, it’s Messi. Two greats of the game battling it out for the prestigious award, one does something spectacular on Saturday, the other matches or even surpasses their achievement on Sunday. It’s becoming a constant cycle which has taken our breath away at times. Messi currently in scintillating form since the year began, will Ronaldo move aside and let Leo reclaim glory? Certainly not. That thought itself will push Cristiano to the absolute limit, likewise with Leo in previous years. They’re essentially helping each-other become better players without even realising. Cristiano’s determination to become and stay the best will always remain until he retires from football, one month has passed and people are already talking about Messi winning his fifth Ballon D’or? Let’s see what Cristiano says about that. He won’t stay quiet for much longer.
It’s fair to say that Cristiano has had a problematic start to 2015, his alleged break-up with Irina Shayk last month before the Gala awards dominated the media reports after the ceremony. Perhaps that’s taken its toll in recent weeks alongside the injury rumours, which were deemed to be untrue after the physios’ reiterated that Cristiano is 100% and nothing is wrong it terms of fitness. These are all assumptions though, I’m confident Cristiano will get back to his prolific self sooner rather than later. He’s still hungry and the desire to succeed unquestionably remains.
So this brings me back to the main talking point, the message I’m attempting to get across to everyone (mainly Madrid supporters) is Cristiano Ronaldo currently lies in a sticky situation. Adapting isn’t exactly straight forward but like always, great players find a way. Decline perhaps isn’t the right word to describe this current situation, I prefer the term blip. Cristiano is far from the finished book. So just how long can Ronaldo maintain this level at the top? Thirty two, thirty three, thirty four, even older? Who knows! If he implements this new style correctly, which will make him more effective during games as well as staying injury-free then perhaps a long time. This perfect athlete we keep banging on about, far from over.
Finished? Pffft. There’s still plenty of chapters yet to be written.
Article written by: @YanitedAdam