Football

Cristiano Ronaldo could be in decline

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The fans at the Bernabeu on Saturday night witnessed a unique scenario unfold in front of their eyes: Real Madrid failed to score in a home league game for the first time since 2013.

Malaga belied their lowly position to hold on to a draw, but most shocking of all - Cristiano Ronaldo failed to score again.

It's easy to rush straight to hyperbole like we tend to do in modern football, but maybe Ronaldo's relative goal drought is cause for concern.

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In the six league games he's featured in so far this season, he's only scored in one of them (admittedly he scored five goals in that game).

This lack of goalscoring is something we're not used to seeing from Ronaldo; we can't help but wonder, is this the beginning of the end?

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Physical decline

Respected Spanish pundit, Guillem Balague, told Sky Sports that he believes Ronaldo isn't willing to accept his physical decline now he's passed the age of 30. 

"I just keep thinking that we've seen the best from him," the pundit commented, "and at the moment it's for him to accept his new physical and mental position, and to become a striker."

There's an argument that Ronaldo isn't as physically imposing as he used to be - how many times did we see him score after an incredibly powerful burst into the box, meeting a James or Benzema cross? So far this season, that powerful burst is becoming rarer and rarer. 

Like Balague says, maybe it's time for Ronaldo to play as a striker. Cutting in from the left has worked wonders for him across his career, but without the goals he doesn't provide much else for Real. He has nearly half as many touches as James Rodrigues, has only provided one assist and barely contributes defensively. It seems strange to say, but can Real Madrid continue to carry someone so ineffectual?

Benitez factor

It's likely that Ronaldo's lack of efficiency in front of goal is due to the change of manager: instead of attack minded Carlo Ancelotti, Madrid now have the cagey, counter attacking Rafael Benitez. There's not much doubt who the Madrid fans would have preferred.

To be fair to Benitez, he's tried to steer clear of his naturally defensive style and adopted Madrid's attacking philosophy, though it's doubtful whether Ronaldo would still be struggling if Ancelotti were still in charge. Rumours of discontent around Ronaldo continue to circulate the Bernabeu.

Ronaldo's response

How Ronaldo responds to his mini goal drought will be what defines his season: he could become overly demanding of his teammates, putting his goal-scoring before the team. On the other hand, he could sacrifice his comfort of the left wing for a more central option - only time will tell.

With an air of uncertainty cast over Madrid at the moment, one fact still remains as clear as ever: If Real Madrid are to enjoy a successful season, they need Ronaldo to be back to his absolute best. 

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Topics:
La Liga
Cristiano Ronaldo
Real Madrid
Football

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