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What happened to Cristiano Ronaldo?


Sometimes, I just miss the good old days. I miss cheering for Savicevic (when playing for Milan). I miss watching Beckham score a free-kick for United. I miss Rivaldo’s bicycle kick against Valencia. I miss Ronaldo’s hat-trick scored at Old Trafford (in United’s 4-3 win over Real Madrid). I definitely miss Ronaldinho’s smile on a football pitch.

As I sat watching the second tie of the semifinals, I couldn’t resist a nostalgic thought: what happened to United’s Cristiano Ronaldo? The former United player used to be so spectacular under the guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson. His dazzling runs and fancy footwork were ever present in Sir Alex’s side. Do you remember those good old days? When Cristiano used to mesmerise the world?

Nowadays, as statistics suggest, he enjoys his best season: 42 goals and 13 assists in 49 games for Real Madrid.  Impressive, huh? Not quite, as far as i’m concerned.

When playing for United, during the 2007-2008 season, he scored 42 goals and provided 8 assists in 49 games. Those performances earned him a well deserved Ballon D’or (the first United player to receive the award since George Best in 1968).

Furthermore, he received many other prestigious awards for those thrilling displays (including but not limited to):

–          Fifa World Player of the Year,

–          The first winger to win the European Golden Shoe Award,

–          PFA Players’ Player of the Year,

–          PFA Fans’ Player of the Year,

–          Barclays Player of the season,

–          FWA Footballer of the Year,

–          Barclays Golden Boot (31 league goals in 34 appearances – 12 years after Shearer’s record of 31 league goals scored for Blackburn),

–          Barclays Premier League Merit,

–          Named in the PFA Team of the Year,

–          UEFA fans’ man of the match (for his display against Chelsea in the Champions League final).

One could argue that the Red Devils managed to win the Double during the 2007-2008 season and contributed heavily to the Portuguese’s awards, but the fact is Cristiano Ronaldo was that good. He was simply divine and, at times, unplayable.

Now, if you look at the statistics, he has had a better season playing under Mourinho. But, if you saw Real’s games, you would acknowledge the lack of truth in that last sentence. His electric displays are gone. Those electric displays that earned him all the aforementioned awards.

Today, Cristiano is a just a goal scoring machine. Which is great, especially for a club like Real Madrid.  It’s just that he’s not that Cristiano anymore. The most expensive player in football’s history has left outside the pitch his flicks and tricks to help Real Madrid stop Barcelona’s Golden Age.

As I fan, I would argue that this attitude is a mistake. The Portuguese’s enthusiastic dribbles, back heels, step overs / scissors, were breathtaking. If you take that out, he’s not the €94m player anymore. He’s a fantastic goal scorer, yes, but not the Portuguese phenomenon.  I simply cannot understand why Mourinho wouldn’t let Cristiano play the way the player wants. He let Deco (at Porto) play as he wanted.

If you read my other articles, you would know that I have (and always had) a tremendous respect for Mourinho. He’s perhaps the best manager in the world. But not to give Cristiano a free role is shocking.

I know the lad since his Sporting days (promoted alongside Quaresma by Laszlo Boloni). I watched him score a double on his league debut. Moreover, I watched him during the inauguration of the Estádio José Alvalade, when Sporting defeated United 3-1. That kid was amazing.  I think I even have that tape back at home.

Cristiano soon became United’s first ever Portuguese player. And perhaps United’s best deal (at least from a financial point of view) in their history. I liked that Sir Alex refused to give Ronaldo the number 28 shirt and stressed that he should take the number 7 instead.

Cristiano truly lived up to the fans’ expectations, with his flamboyant skills. I definitely enjoyed Cristiano do the Denilson (aka the scissors) again and again.

On 1st of July 2009, Cristiano moved to Spanish giants, Real Madrid, for an astonishing £80 million fee (€94m). He was presented as a Real player at the Bernabeu in front of 80.000 fans (surpassing Diego Maradona’s record with Napoli).

He formed a successful partnership with Higuain, scoring 53 league goals during the course of the season (Real’s highest scoring league duo in their history). His displays were almost brilliant, as the free role given by Pellegrini suited him like a glove. Too bad that he failed to win a trophy.

With the departure of Raul, Ronaldo inherited the number 7 shirt (in the summer of 2010) and scored a cornucopia of goals. But, that’s pretty much it. His audacious skills are to be found, perhaps, outside the Bernabeu stadium. Despite scoring the winner in the Copa del Rey Final played at Mestalla, Ronaldo’s flicks and tricks went awol.

As I watched the semifinal against Barcelona (at Bernabeu), I was disappointed to see him play like that. He didn’t dribble and even had 3 free-kicks wasted. I could not help but remember his fantastic free-kicks while playing for United. Do you remember?

The former United man confessed after the game that he would need time to adapt to this defensive attitude of Real Madrid. Perhaps, he suffers from a mental block, especially when playing against Barcelona. One thing is certain. For Real Madrid to shine, they desperately need Cristiano’s flamboyance.

As a football fan, I could not care less if he scored 20 goals in one season. But I would care about the way he played in those games. I want to see Cristiano given a free role again. Let the guy play his game! Football needs him, with all his flicks and tricks.

Dear fans, what do you think? Is Cristiano the same player he used to be at Old Trafford? Is he less spectacular?


NOTE: This article was written before last night’s clash between Barcelona and Real Madrid

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