It is clear to see that at 33 years old, Cristiano Ronaldo’s overall influence on the game has been decreasing, but it does not, however, suggest that the Portuguese superstar is any less efficient or instrumental to Real Madrid’s immediate success.
The former Manchester United winger once again proved his critics wrong with a sublime performance in the Round of 16 in the Champions League against Paris Saint-Germain. While he was fortunate for one of his two goals, Ronaldo was continuously in the right place at the right time to finish off the attacking plays that Los Blancos’ architectures created.
Interestingly, Ronaldo has only scored two goals fewer than he managed after playing 30 games in all competitions this time last year. While there is more to be said at how he is used sparingly by Zinedine Zidane, his overall stats are not trudging behind as some are keen to point out.
Having scored 26 goals and recorded five assists in 30 appearances, Ronaldo’s performances and statistics looks familiar to the phenomenal rate he usually produces. But, in fact, for the games that he is playing in, he is registering a higher expected goal per-90 rating as well as having more shots on-target throughout the game
As the Portuguese international is coming inside more and more from his left wing - or sometimes even playing through the middle as a centre forward - Ronaldo is providing a nuisance for opposition defenders at certain points throughout the game. With his expected goals per-90 increasing by 0.08, and taking 1.04 more shots per-game, Ronaldo’s critical stats are improving even if his overall game is not.
When watching him in LaLiga, it is evident for anyone to see that he will not complete as many dribbles as he once used to. Out of the whole Spanish league, Ronaldo does not make the top 50
players in having completed successful dribbles. When he used to be battling Lionel Messi for top spot, over the course of the last few years, it has been a slow wind down in what Ronaldo can do on the ball anymore.
While he might have considerably reduced the amount of take-ons he completes, and he is hesitant to partake in the art of dribbling that made his name, he has instead focussed on other areas of his game that includes shooting. Zidane has turned Ronaldo into a more prolific shooter and encouraged the Portuguese forward to rain havoc on the opposition’s goal. By contrast to any other player in the league, Ronaldo has 1.0 shot per-90 more than the second most active shooter in LaLiga – Lionel Messi.
As we saw against the French Champions-elect in the first leg, Ronaldo picked his moments expertly and changed the tie completely after falling behind 1-0 early on. The Portuguese hero has a habit of turning things around in the Champions League, especially when he scored a hat-trick to send Madrid into the semi-finals and beating Wolfsburg 3-2 on aggregate.
Without Ronaldo, this season, Los Blancos would be a in world of trouble, especially in Europe. The forward seems to attract critics like honey does to bees, but he continues to show them why
he is regarded as one of the best to ever play the game. 11 goals in seven Champions League appearances, Ronaldo’s rate is phenomenal in Europe and more than suggests he still has that incredibly impressive knack of producing stellar moments at the right time.
In the all-time rankings, Ronaldo currently has 56 knockout goals. Second place is Messi with 37 and third is Thomas Müller of Bayern Munich with 18. That is not ‘stat padding’ against lesser teams, those are big goals during big matches in which Real Madrid have needed him. To be that far in front, especially against Messi, is just absurd and a record that is possibly one of his finest to date.
It is easy to forget that Ronaldo, or Messi, are not immortal. At 33, that is typically around the age that a superstar does take their foot off the gas and wind it down. But Ronaldo looks more motivated than ever to, once again, prove his critics wrong and show that he is still the main man for the big moments. So far, he is doing just that.
This article was written by Liam Canning exclusively for Soccer Box, where you can shop for all your Real Madrid football kit, La Liga, Manchester United and Champions League teams shirts, kit and training gear.