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Is Cristiano Ronaldo in decline?

The Portuguese forward has only managed to score one goal in the last eight matches, despite some fine performances.

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Real Madrid star forward Cristiano Ronaldo failed to find the back of the net in a friendly match against France and then again in a Euro 2016 qualifier against Albania whilst featuring for his country earlier this week. For Los Blancos, CR7 has only managed to score once, in what was a preseason match against Manchester City. For a player who boasts statistics as extraordinary as Ronaldo, this may worry some Madridistas.

More worrying, however, is that Ronaldo is facing one of his longest goal droughts in the Spanish club under the spell of new Madrid coach Rafa Benítez. Cristiano had openly defended former coach Carlo Ancelotti, under whom the Portuguese managed to produce some of his finest offensive displays, culminating in two out of three of his ‘Pichichi’ awards. Ronaldo, who had been rumoured not to be a large fan of Benítez’s signing, may be feeling a bit unsettled.

Benítez rumoured to have been brought in to unleash the immense talent that Gareth Bale is may be reason enough to upset Real Madrid’s main man and thus affect his on-pitch performances. That, however, is unlikely. In reality, it seems that Cristiano has been unlucky.

Madrid’s first official match of the season at El Molinón ended in a stalemate, notwithstanding Los Blancos’ ten shots, with four of them on target. Against Betis, Ronaldo came close early on with a free kick from distance, but bottled several chances as the match progressed – chances which he would have surely converted last season.

In 2011, Real Madrid’s fitness coach Valter Di Salvo commented on how he believed that Ronaldo could remain as competitive and fit past his 30s as he was at the time. "It is difficult to say where the ceiling is for Ronaldo because he never gives up. I think he will play up to 38 years at the top. Like Giggs, he is a professional and an example for all his companions."

The now 30-year-old’s statistics provide absolutely no reason to worry. Despite missing out on the La Liga title last year, Cristiano managed to score 48 goals in the league. Alongside Messi, Ronaldo keeps on breaking records game after game. In Managing Madrid’s Season Preview, the entire staff predicted that the Portuguese forward would finish as Real Madrid’s top goal scorer. Such is Cristiano’s ability that there is no doubt among Madridistas as to who will lead Madrid’s frontline.

With Benítez’s appointment, however, Real Madrid may be heading into a new chapter in their history. Cristiano will surely play an important role, but players such as Gareth Bale and James Rodríguez may play similarly influential roles. Should Ronaldo morph into a more traditional no.9 as is expected, then his influence on Madrid’s style of play will further decrease.

Those who watch Ronaldo week in week out will surely have noticed a slight loss of pace and physicality. It seems as if Cristiano is now more centred on bagging goals and breaking more individual records rather than controlling his team’s game. Ronaldo may step out on the pitch in tomorrow’s game against Espanyol and net a goal or even a hat-trick.

Still, do not expect Ronaldo to continue carrying the team on his shoulders past this season. As with all players, Cristiano may be entering the last stage of his career.

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