Football

Cristiano Ronaldo's struggles for Real Madrid could be a warning sign

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As a crisis goes, it doesn't seem to be a very big one. Real Madrid trudged from the pitch after their 4-0 defeat against Atletico Madrid on Saturday, shellshocked as a sixth game came and went without a victory for the men in white against Diego Simeone's side since that fateful Champions League final night in May.

Three times Real Madrid have failed to score in a game this season; each time it was Atleti standing in their way. The noisy neighbours of Madrid are a side built in the image of their gutsy manager, and they've found a way to get under their biggest rivals' skin. Be that as it may, Carlo Ancelotti's side are still top of La Liga by a point, and Atletico Madrid are four points back. Crisis, what crisis?

Blip

The same goes for Cristiano Ronaldo, a player whose blips in form merely lower him down from extra terrestrial to world class. He's scored 38 goals in 34 games for club and country this season for crying out loud.

So, in the grand scheme of things both he and Madrid are ticking along quite nicely - however in the context of his illustrious achievements and the dizzy heights he's reached since he moved to Spain, everything doesn't look quite so rosy.

2015 hasn't been his year so far. He's scored four goals - two of which came against lowly Getafe - in nine games. Of course then there's the sending off against Cordoba which cost him a two game suspension, and the persistent reports that his knee is causing him trouble; Madrid are mindful of the issue but not overly concerned at this point. 

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Then there's the nonsense surrounding his birthday. Seen crooning in a bar not long after the net had stopped bulging at the Vicente Calderon, a small group of fans taunted him upon his arrival for training this morning. "Más cojones y menos fiestas" they said. More balls and less parties. It doesn't take much for Real Madrid fans to turn.

Ronaldo's overall performances this year and since the Club World Cup have been fine without being exceptional. To put his recent 'goal drought' - to call it that - in context, you have to go back to 2012, not long after it emerged he was 'sad' at the Bernabeu, to find the last time his immaculate standards slipped - and even then he still managed four goals in eleven games between November and December. By no means a barren spell at all for any respectable Premier League striker. 

He hasn't gone more than two games without scoring in his last two-and-a-half seasons at the Bernabeu, while he's only gone three games or more without a goal in his Real Madrid career six times.

Conclusions

It's far too early to jump to any conclusions but this year he's already experienced four "streaks" of not scoring in two straight games. Read aloud it sounds ridiculous but given Ronaldo's extraordinary standards it could be indicative of something being not being quite right. 

His shots-per-game this season in La Liga are at their lowest since his move to Spain as are his key passes. Once again both figures 5.7-per-game and 1-per-game remain hearty enough for a normal player but this isn't a normal player we're discussing.

It would be an easy and logical assumption to put his "slump" down to the inevitable passing of time. His break-up with model girlfriend Irina Shayk is unlikely to help either. 

He is after all 30-years-old now; traditionally the great watershed moment when age starts becoming an increasingly pertinent factor in any footballer's career. The former Manchester United man's game is centred around explosive athleticism which puts him at the mercy of time's ravages, but there is unlikely to be anyone in the game who works harder at their physique and fitness to counter that inevitability. 

Knee problems

The elephant in the room is of course his apparently crumbling knee which thwarted his participation in the World Cup. A surgeon in Brazil reportedly told Ronaldo that his 'future is in danger’ if he carried on playing through the pain, which of course he did. 

Marca, who have traditionally been a mouthpiece for Real Madrid, reported two days ago that he can't sprint without wincing. Trips to specialist doctors and stem cell treatments have been discussed, apparently. Degenerative tendonosis, the problem dogging Ronaldo, isn't one that can be cured as such; it can merely be managed by tailored training sessions and physiotherapy.

The Portuguese superstar has shown in the past that he can bounce back from blips extraordinary well. After his 2012 slump he managed 13 goals in 10 games, and given his previous form from even just a few months ago only a fool would bet against him doing the same again.

However this is a testing time for Ronaldo and one he needs to emerge from soon, especially given the remarkable form his ever-present shadow Lionel Messi is in at the moment. If nothing else, it's putting his chances of a fourth Ballon d'or in doubt - and that in itself is indicative of the rod he's made for his own back.

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Topics:
Football
La Liga
Cristiano Ronaldo
Real Madrid
Manchester United

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