When Cristiano Ronaldo received his third Ballon d’Or at the turn of the year, he let out a deafening, and some would say quite embarrassing, ‘war cry’.
‘Siiiii’ was the Portuguese’s own way of acknowledging that here he was again, stood amongst his peers as the best player in the world. An individual accolade that is the pinnacle for any football player.
It was the right decision too. Ronaldo had been beyond excellent for the duration of 2014, and had the silverware to boot. Only the mischief-making media dared to suggest that Lionel Messi deserved a record-breaking fifth title.
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That was at the beginning of January of course and at that stage Ronaldo was still a cavernous nine goals ahead of rival Messi for this season and, by common consent, playing some of the best football of his career.
It was, they said, going to be another cakewalk to Ballon d’Or victory.
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But how times change. Just two months later and Messi is within touching distance, in goalscoring terms, of the player he is always compared to. And he is the one now bang in form.
To put his malaise into even further perspective, Ronaldo has struck 50 direct free-kicks in succession and not scored from a single one. For one of the worlds best exponents of the same, it’s an astonishing statistic.
The split from his long-term girlfriend Irina Shayk has been well publicised but that can’t be the only reason why his form has dipped to such an incredible extent.
He looks disinterested while on the pitch, and has been seen not celebrating goals when scored by his team mates.
A typical example would be just a few weeks ago when he missed an open goal only for Isco to follow up and score. The look on Ronaldo’s face was one of anger rather than celebration.
When Gareth Bale refused to pass to him in an earlier match, he made his displeasure clear.
Knee injury to blame?
Fatigue might well be a factor too.
Ronaldo was warned at the start of the season that he couldn’t continue playing every game because of his degenerative knee condition, but has, thus far, steadfastly refused that advice.
His appearances extended to the Club World Cup and a mid-season sponsor-led friendly, when the rest of La Liga had their feet up enjoying their winter break. Surely, with that in mind, it was always going to catch up with him at some point?
In any event, the ‘real’ Ronaldo has gone missing and boy has he been missed. It’s time for him to show his face again. Will the real Ronaldo please stand up.
Are the best years of Cristiano Ronaldo's career now behind him? Have your say in the comments below!