Real Madrid Transfer 2015: The Time to Sell Declining Cristiano Ronaldo Is Now
There comes a time when all good things come to an end.
That time has come for Cristiano Ronaldo.
This weekend, the superstar had what was arguably his worst performance for Los Blancos in 2015-16, a performance that saw the former superstar look like a shadow of himself with everything going wrong in the worst way.
Let's put the spotlight on a few events. At one point Ronaldo came in off the left wing and tried to take on a defender. He lost the ball.
At another point in the first half he received a long ball and saw his shot deflected. The first touch was great, the timing for the shot was desperate and lacked any composure.
And in the second half Ronaldo opted for a shot from a wide angle instead of a pass to an open Luka Modric that likely ends up in a goal.
Ronaldo finished the night with five shots at goal, one on target, 45 touches (third fewest on the team) and for the second straight game no goals.
On the year Ronaldo has 13 goals in 15 games for Los Blancos, a solid number, but one inflated by a five goal performance against Espanyol and a hat trick against Shakhtar Donetsk; so if the math serves right, Ronaldo has five goals in 13 matches.
Again that is not a bad number but it is not an elite number. We have already talked about Ronaldo not being an elite star in world soccer at the moment. In fact, he might not be anywhere near a top five attacker on Real Madrid.
Gareth Bale's return against Sevilla was highlighted by constant pressuring, confidence with the ball. James Rodriguez's late opportunity resulted in a handful of scoring chances and a goal; if he had started one could argue that the game ends differently.
Karim Benzema was a more consistent scorer than Ronaldo before his injuries. Jese Rodriguez is a more dynamic attacker. Lucas Vasquez even offers more on both sides of the ball.
Ronaldo? He has less than a two percent conversion rate on free kicks in the last three years (not a good stat by any measure) and yet feels like he should take them. He is scoring on less than 10 percent of the shots he takes and yet continues to take low percentage shots. He can't dribble past anyone anymore and seeing Ronaldo with the ball at his feet and defenders around him is often a reason for anxiety for Madrid fans instead of excitement and hope.
In other words, Ronaldo is a parody of his former great self at this point and three months in is a large enough sample to make the confirmation that at age 30 (31 in January!), the superstar is past his best form. Throw in the fact that his celebrity seems to be the biggest thing on his mind right now (he recently premiered his documentary and has been more successful at promoting himself on social media than on the field) and you have a major issue on your hands.
Maybe Rafa Benitez's system with its slow buildup and ultimate lack of dynamism does not suit the superstar, but he is not doing anything to involve himself in the play more often. He cannot dictate play the way Lionel Messi or Neymar do. On his own team other players are more valuable to setting up the attack.
It is time for Real Madrid to slowly phase out the former superstar and pave way for younger players to take over. For Bale and James Rodriguez to become the offensive centerpieces of the team. For a player like Marco Reus to be brought in to take over Ronaldo's former position.
Asking Ronaldo to change is unlikely. If he hasn't done it to this point, then he simply will not. Which means that on current form, he brings nothing to Real Madrid except frustration. One could claim that he puts the team at a disadvantage.
He is ever close to becoming Radamel Falcao, a player that can no longer hack it at the highest level. A player that no big team wants anything to do with.
You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.
Ronaldo is no longer the hero. And if he is not benched or sold, he will become the villain.