Cristiano Ronaldo is considered as one of the greatest players to grace the sport of football, the 36-year-old Portuguese is a 5-time ballon d or winner, a serial winner, and the top scorer in the history of the game, the thing which however continues to amaze everyone is his extremely dedicated work ethic and longevity as he shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Cristiano Ronaldo has racked up 100+ goals for Juventus over the past three seasons despite joining them at the age of 33! He also has the best goal per game ratio in the history of the Italian club. So far Ronaldo has scored more than 100 goals for every team he has played for, including his national team and a magnificent record of 450 goals in 438 matches for former club Real Madrid.
Changing the perception of wingers in football
What often goes unnoticed is that Ronaldo was not a goal-scoring threat during his early days in Manchester, he was a direct wide player who was more focused on crossing and dribbling during games. However, since 2009 Cristiano Ronaldo has changed the trend and identity of wide players, his famous role as an inverted winger and an inside forward at Real Madrid allowed him to be a potent goalscoring threat while fulfilling all his duties and matching the work rate of a winger.
Due to this transition, wingers are now seen as a goalscoring threat along with strikers and no longer the only function as wide players on either side. Ronaldo in his prime was not only a threat from outside the box, but his aerial abilities and clinical finishing made him an even bigger threat from inside the box as he racked up more than 60 goals for 4 straight seasons despite being deployed on the wing.
From Rocket Ronaldo to a Fox in the Box
After consecutive knee injuries in 2014 and 2016, Ronaldo had to change his game completely, not to forget the Portuguese superstar was also n his thirties, which meant that it was about time his physical prowess would start to slow down. However, that has hardly been the case, Cristiano Ronaldo has now transformed himself into a complete goalscoring machine, which has helped him prolonging his career while taking care of his body.
During the latter stages of his career, Ronaldo has focused more on his positioning off the ball rather than his movement with the ball, which means that he dribbles less, but effectively. In 2017-18 his dribbles per game dropped to a mere 1.7, which came as a surprise to many fans and experts around the world, but his involvement and presence inside the penalty box increased, which meant that it was now time for him to use his extremely gifted finishing ability as the main virtue of his game.
Throughout the last few years, his touches per game have also decreased tremendously, which means that rather than getting on the ball to create chances, his focus has shifted to getting into the right places and exploiting space behind defenders to score as many goals as possible. This has not only allowed him to lessen his workload as he continues to age but also helped him produce clutch moments out of nowhere. He no longer needs the ball to create a difference, all he needs is one pass to hurt the opposition, the prime example of this coming in the knockout stages of the champions league as he made that competition his own.
Most of Cristiano Ronaldo’s movements now take place off the ball, which means that he focuses more on studying and exploiting the space available. This results in runs behind defenders or lateral runs inside the box to find the space for the perfect finish, a lot of this part goes unnoticed in a game, which is why people criticized his new way of playing, often labeling him as “finished”, but the truth is that the numbers do not lie, and Ronaldo continues to rack them up for club and country.
Another thing that must be taken into account is the aerial ability of the Portuguese, which means that Ronaldo feasts on crosses from the wings. Scoring headers is one of his main qualities, the ability to jump higher than the defender, and his extraordinary leap makes him a potent threat off the ground as well as adding more goals to his tally and making him a complete goal-scorer.
The biggest challenge for any sportsperson is to adapt to his surroundings, Ronaldo has not only done it with different teams and leagues but also with himself, as he has produced different versions of pure footballing talent, each unique in its own way, which is why he is arguably the greatest of all time.