Some say he is the best player in the world. Many say he is the second best player in the world. What cannot be denied is that Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the best footballers around today, and has been for quite some time now.
What also cannot be denied is the fact that statistically he is clearly second to long time rival Lionel Messi when it comes to deciding whom the best player on the planet is. Statistics are not everything, but they do tell a tale. Given that both are so equally gifted, the raw stats are the only way to judge who is better.
As impressive as Ronaldo's 201 goals in 200 appearances in four completed seasons at Real Madrid is, during the same time period, Messi has netted 233 times in 218 appearances. That individual success has translated into collective success as a club, whilst Ronaldo has been struggling to claim anywhere near the same amount of silverware.
Yes, Barcelona have enjoyed a fantastic era and have had the wood over Real Madrid in recent years as a consequence, leading directly to deny Madrid the chance of winning trophies.
However, the stats show Messi's decisiveness in the biggest matches and the overall effectiveness of his play as he has proven that his end products are not just a way to become a flat track bully, but rises to the occasion on the grandest of stages.
Since moving centrally as part of Barcelona's front three, Messi has benefited immensely from an individual perspective as his numbers are greater than ever, and may not be matched any player for some time unless he does himself.
He is involved in Barcelona's build-up a lot more than he would on the flanks and is closer to goal, which means with his talent he is able to score more and assist more. This begs the question. If Cristiano Ronaldo wants to attempt to take his game to another level and challenge Messi even more to the title of the worlds best player, should he too play as a centre forward?
We have seen new manager Carlo Ancelotti experiment with Ronaldo as a number 9 during pre season against the likes of Lyon and in other pre season matches as a second striker behind another striker in a 4-4-1-1 system. Typically Ancelotti likes to play with a narrow system with a packed midfield and often two strikers.
With the likes of Xabi Alonso, Luka Modric, Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira and Isco amongst the ranks, Ronaldo could be accommodated to play as a traditional striker. However, The former Chelsea manager is flexible and will mix up the formation based on personnel at hand and the opposition so Madrid playing 4-4-1-1 or a 4-3-3 is not out of the question.
The potential addition of Gareth Bale could mean either Madrid decide to arm the flanks with two explosive and wonderfully gifted wide men who offer a significant goal threat, or could further Ronaldo's case to play as a striker.
The analysis and feedback on Ronaldo's performances as a striker during pre season were rather discouraging as he was described as being 'lost' at times and struggling to cope with the lack of space that would be afforded to him as a winger.
You only have to look at Thierry Henry to see how successful a winger can be when shifted to a striking role, and given how both Ronaldo and Henry are blessed with fantastic technique, pace and composed finishing, there is no doubt that Ronaldo could reap the benefits of moving centrally.
However, at 28, the move could prove more disruptive and dysfunctional than devastating. Messi's success in a central position is largely down to the style of Barcelona that is accommodating to the Argentines vast array of skills.
As a false nine, Messi is much more involved in the buildup of attacks as he drops deep, which means he is rarely isolated or staved of possession and opportunity to contribute in some way, especially given Barcelona's domination of possession in all matches.
This allows him to rack up assists as he plays the role of creator as he links attacks together to play in either of his wide men or or fullbacks or the on rushing runs of Iniesta, Xavi and Cesc Fabregas etc.
Naturally goals will come easier, by virtue of his central position. For Ronaldo, he may well succeed as a striker if moved there given his sheer quality, however it may take some time
for him to flourish and there is a certain question of him limiting his game and diminishing as player if he does move to a central position.
Ronaldo has always been a flamboyant, tricky and pacy winger who loves to take on defenders and threaten the goal. He is naturally a player who loves and ultimately needs space as he has been seeing paddocks of green grass ahead of him his entire career.
To ask him to play with his back to goal and take on defences on his own is something that Ronaldo may not be quite able to do on a week-to-week basis. For it to work, Madrid has to change their whole philosophy and play to accommodate Ronaldo, like Barcelona did for Messi.
With a new manager and a fresh start, there is no better time to make the change. There seems to be no other way of Ronaldo pushing Messi any further in the battle for global
supremacy as the world's best player than to make the move to striker.
If the systems and tactics and constructed to accommodate Ronaldo's strengths, then it may prove to be a career defining moment. Or else the old saying sticks, 'if it
ain't broke, don't fix it'.
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