Las Palmas away must have had a big red circle around it on Cristiano Ronaldo’s calendar.
This was one of Real Madrid’s fixtures Ronaldo would have identified as a golden opportunity to bolster his goalscoring stats for the season - and, at the same time, his chances of winning the Pichichi.
So it came as a big surprise that Ronaldo not only failed to score at the Gran Canaria but was anonymous throughout the entire 90 minutes.
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According to Spanish newspaper AS, Ronaldo touched the ball 28 times against Las Palmas - his lowest tally in La Liga since arriving at the Bernabeu in the summer of 2009.
The 31-year-old has only recorded fewer touches of the ball on six previous occasions, but during each of those he was only on the pitch for 45 minutes rather than the full 90.
Ronaldo's previous low was v Malaga last month
Ronaldo’s previous record low (in terms of touches registered over 90 minutes) came in the 1-1 draw against Malaga at La Rosaleda last month.
The three-time Ballon d’Or winner scored the opening goal of the game but missed a penalty three minutes later and finished the match with just 37 touches.
What's going wrong for CR7?
These stats suggest one of two things: either Zinedine Zidane is failing to get the best out of the prolific Portuguese superstar or Ronaldo is beginning to slow down.
Forty goals in 37 appearances indicates that the former, rather than the latter, is closer to the truth - but it’s abundantly clear that something isn’t right.
Ronaldo was booed by Real Madrid’s home supporters during the first half of the 7-1 win over Celta Vigo earlier this month.
He was poor during the opening 45 minutes but responded by scoring four goals in 26 second-half minutes.
Zidane is unlikely to drop Ronaldo
"There are fans who want Ronaldo to be sold? Well I don't and I'm the coach,” Zidane commented ahead of the Champions League match against AS Roma at the Bernabeu.
"As far as the whistles go, they did it to me too... to everyone."
Zidane has been full of praise for Ronaldo since replacing Rafael Benitez in the Real Madrid hot-seat in January, describing him as the world’s best player even after Lionel Messi won the Ballon d’Or for a record-breaking fifth time.
It’s clear that Zidane will not be dropping Ronaldo any time soon, but his performances and overall contribution really must improve if Real Madrid are to finish the season with silverware.
Has Cristiano Ronaldo entered the early stages of decline? Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.
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