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Is Cristiano Ronaldo on the decline at Real Madrid?

Is Cristiano Ronaldo on the decline at Real Madrid?

Four goals from eight games may not seem a bad tally for a forward, but for Cristiano Ronaldo, it represents a mini-crisis. Last year, after eight games, he had ten goals. The year before, 12. The year before that, 11. It is the first time since 2011 where he has not been in double figures after his first eight appearances of the season, and you would have to go back to 2006 to find a worse start to the season for the Portugal star and it could be set to derail his hopes of the Balon D’Or after masterminding Champions League victory with his club and Euro 2016 glory with his country.

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With a poor goal return to date, it is not for want of trying. With an average of 6.1 shots per game so far this season, the Portuguese attacker is not afraid to have a go, but his conversion rate is currently one of the worst in Europe at just 8.5%, whilst teammate Gareth Bale currently sits at 11.1% and his arch nemesis Lionel Messi has averaged a remarkable 26.8%. The decline in the 31-year-old’s form over the past two years is clear when you consider that last season his conversion ratio was 18.4% and in 2014/15 it was 26.4%.

One aspect in which Ronaldo’s decline has also become clear has been in terms of his dribbling. This season to date, he has averaged around 0.24 successful dribbles per game, compared to 3.43 for Lionel Messi and rates as high as 4.81 for Andres Iniesta. It marks a continued theme of a change in style, as early 2016/17 stats show a continued fall in the number of dribbles attempted for a seventh consecutive campaign, going from 5.4 dribbles per game in 2010/11 to just 1.2 per game last campaign.

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Under Zinedine Zidane, Cristiano is having to adapt. He is no longer the star man that the team so desperately rely on as has been the case in the past. Zidane made the brave move to take him off against Las Palmas, the first time in his seven-year Real Madrid career that he was substituted for tactical reasons, and it is symbolic of his decline that when the Frenchman wanted to ensure victory, it would be Cristiano who would have to make way.

It is still early on in the season, and Ronaldo did miss much of the start of the campaign with an injury picked up as his side fought their way to Euro 2016 victory, but the signs aren’t good. Last season was Ronaldo’s poorest in over a decade on an individual level in terms of performances and stats, but Champions League and Euro 2016 wins papered over the cracks. This time around, there’s no such excuse. As Gareth Bale proves to be more important for the Madrid side and Alvaro Morata proves to be a capable deputy, there is no longer a reliance upon the Portuguese attacker, and it seems like he is no longer capable of producing the incredible form that we have become accustomed to seeing from one of the world’s best players as he enters what will inevitably become the final years of his career.

Featured Image: All rights reserved by Serg Hoholok.

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