There was never really any doubt was there? Cristiano Ronaldo wasn’t going to extend his ‘goal drought’ to four games last night, especially when tasked with breaking down what is a relatively porous Schalke 04 defence.
Admittedly his three games without a goal prior to Real Madrid’s 2-0 victory in the Champions League was somewhat alarming given his reputation and the almost dangerous levels of pressure placed upon his shoulders, but retrospectively the idea that he had possibly lost his midas touch after the short-patch of inconsistency in question was laughable, nay downright daft.
The 2015 Ballon d’Or winner remains a fine specimen of an athlete, and will do for some time. His genetic superiority, coupled with his Spartan-like work ethic rules out the chance of age taking its toll prematurely, and so it’s easy to assume that he’ll remain a world-class player for a good few years to come. So good, in fact, that the idea of Los Blancos ever letting him go is considered preposterous.
With the Portugal captain firmly set as the jewel in Real’s glittering crown, and basking in the plaudits that naturally come when you’re one of two of the most valuable assets in world football, the question has to be begged whether or not it’s worth selling him in his pomp to recoup a phenomenal figure or keeping him until he’s past his sell by date. He’d still be better than most when he’s 38, just not half as good as Madrid fans have come to expect.
There are positives for both. There’s an argument to be made around the outlandish theory that Real might actually be a better unit all-round when Ronaldo’s not on the pitch. A host of players seem to up their game when their talismanic forward isn’t the focal point of every attack, and as a cohesive unit they’re far less one-dimensional.
Stats are inclined to disagree, and it would take an obtusely stubborn man to claim that Ronaldo is anything other than a certified game-changer though. If the impact of modern-day players is to be quantified by metrics such as goals-scored, assists made and even records broken then Ronaldo is an individual of once in a lifetime ability. Or at least he would be, were the ever-pesky Lionel Messi not around.
Such is his repute in the footballing world that there is essentially no limit to how much Real could charge for him if the decision was made to try and milk the greatest cash cow of all time.
Yet that doesn’t mean in return Carlo Ancelotti - or anyone else who was in control at the time - could put together a team capable of being more formidable in front of goal than when Ronaldo is firing all guns blazing, with the money they'd make from his departure.
Unfortunately - and as a Real supporter this truly breaks my heart - time is a mistress even the great CR7 cannot overcome through dogged professionalism. His 30th birthday was celebrated at the beginning of this month, taking him into the next decade of his life and one step closer to the end of a career sure to be immortalised in football folklore.
The problem with the future
As has been regurgitated repeatedly by the most avid Ronaldo fans, his physical excellence means that he is more than likely to be a fine footballer well into his thirties. That being said there will come a time in the not too distant future where the benefits of keeping him are outweighed by the advantages that could be reaped by selling him for a tidy fee.
In my humble opinion Ronaldo isn’t the type of player anymore who can simply take a back seat at Real. He has been the main man for so long that being the supporting act simply isn’t in the script, and when such a time comes that he stops notching an average of almost two goals a game, it could well help whoever is in charge to look to build a post-Cristiano side, rather than keep faith with him until his legs don’t work anymore.
From a business point of view it’s a transaction that should be made whilst he retains a valuation upwards of a £50 million - a figure the likes of Paris Saint-Germain would comfortably pay without question even two years from now.
Ronaldo is an icon, a prince among footballing peasants, but he can’t outrun time, and as such Real are left with a choice; keep him for ten years and hang on to a decent striker who demands to be centre of attention, or relinquish his services as he slides out of his prime and build a new machine in the apocalyptic aftermath - one that functions better with eleven men.
Real Madrid fans, should Los Blancos sell Ronaldo on when he starts to lose his golden touch? Or should he be kept until the end of his career?