At the age of 31, age is not on Cristiano Ronaldo’s side any more.
With declining speed, slower reflexes, inability to score goals the same way as before, it looks like Ronaldo’s stay at the top of football may be in jeopardy. Ronaldo’s physical attributes of pace and quickness have been in decline for several years now, but he has made up for it by changing his style of play. From an out and out winger in his early days, Ronaldo has now started assuming a more central role as compared to earlier. He now scores a lot more of goals through headers rather than by dribbling past and beating his defenders.
Once the mainstay of Real Madrid’s attack, Ronaldo seems to have taken a backseat to Gareth Bale these days. With the talents of Kroos and Modric to ably support him, Ronaldo has never been this comfortable at the club. However, his ability to dominate games has also diminished in recent past, even though that is not for a lack of hunger. It maybe is a sign of maturity that Ronaldo these days is looking at things more from a senior statesman’s point of view rather than that of a young gun.
The change in Ronaldo’s game has been occurring gradually for a few years now and is not an overnight one. As Ronaldo’s pace and quickness decreased, he started taking on fewer defenders and completed a lesser number of dribbles. His explosiveness has also decreased somewhat and is not the same payer he was at Manchester United or in his early years at the Santiago Bernebeau. Ronaldo now understands the game better, is able to strategise better and win games as well as score goals using tactics rather than talent. He has been able to evolve and adapt almost as well as he played the game.
For Portugal, Ronaldo has become the undisputed leader of the National Team, he is the voice and the heart of that team. He is the motivator and always looks to lead from the front. He has realized that there is more to the game than meets the eye and has the look of someone who is ready to sacrifice his all for the love of the game. Cristiano is certainly not the trailblazer he once was when he had the likes of Figo, Moutinho, Rui Costa supporting him.
But Ronaldo is still managing 50 plus goals a season, some of them are from set pieces but a majority are coming as a goal poacher. Ronaldo does not score from outside the box with the same regularity nor does he score with free kicks as frequently. But the flair has given way to a player fully in control of himself and his actions.
On the other hand, the Portuguese these days is assisting his teammates more than ever, linking up with other players much better. His finishing has not declined too much, especially inside the box he is still as dangerous. For a loss in a few pars of his game, Ronaldo has been able to adapt to the changes and still be a player at the top of world football. In the coming years he may switch positions to striker or CAM, but for now let us cherish the few years we have remaining from this legend.
Photo by Jan S0L0